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February 9, 1990

Practice Policies—What Are They?

Author Affiliations

Duke University Durham, NC

Duke University Durham, NC

JAMA. 1990;263(6):877-880. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440060125045

PRACTICE policies are preformed recommendations issued for the purpose of influencing decisions about health interventions. The basic problem addressed by practice policies is that most health decisions are too complicated to be made on a one-by-one, day-to-day basis.1 To make a health decision from scratch would involve identifying the options; identifying the possible outcomes of each option; evaluating the evidence that relates the options to the outcomes; estimating the consequences of each option; weighing the benefits of each option against its harms and costs; factoring in a variety of logistic, economic, legal, social, and personal considerations; and choosing the option that is in some sense the "best." If every practitioner attempted to do this for every decision, the result would be either mental paralysis or chaos.

Practice policies have been used for centuries to help solve this problem by enabling practitioners and researchers to analyze decisions before the fact,