Clinical Paths, Protocols, and Algorithms

Clinical Paths include “descriptions of key events that, if performed by caregivers as described, are expected to produce the most desirable outcomes for patients with specific conditions or procedures.”

“Today caregivers are adopting OUTCOMES-BASED PRACTICE methods to achieve desired patient care goals. Outcomes-based practice (sometimes called OUTCOMES MANAGEMENT) involves a combination of teamwork, continuous quality improvement, and process and outcome measurement. These collaborative multidisciplinary efforts build on the pathway development work of the 1990s.”

Protocols are also an effective strategy for reducing undesirable variation in patient care practices. Unlike clinical paths that cover all aspects of care for a particular group of patients, protocols are designed for specific clinical situations, e.g. administration of heparin, management of postoperative nausea, treatment of pressure sores, etc. Protocols can be used by themselves or in combination with clinical paths.”

An algorithm is a set of prescribed steps, a detailed sequence of actions, or a formula to produce a certain outcome. It contains a set of rules for a certain procedure. As such, it is more akin to protocols than clinical paths.

checklist is “an algorithmic listing of actions to be performed in a given clinical setting to ensure that, no matter how often performed by a given practitioner, no step will be forgotten. An analogy is often made to flight preparation in aviation.” (Reference. See also: Checklists)

Using flowcharts or flow diagrams can help depict clinical paths, protocols, or algorithms.

previous   next