National Guideline Clearinghouse: Fact Sheet

What is the National Guideline Clearinghouse™?

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's National Guideline Clearinghouse™ (NGC) is a publicly available database of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and related documents. It provides Internet users with free online access to updated and new guidelines at

NGC was originally created by AHRQ in partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Association of Health Plans (now America's Health Insurance Plans [AHIP]).

What Are the Major Features of the NGC?

Key components of the NGC include:

  • Structured, standardized abstracts (summaries) about each guideline and its development.
  • A utility for comparing attributes of two or more guidelines in a side-by-side comparison.
  • Syntheses of guidelines covering similar topics, highlighting areas of similarity and difference.
  • Links to full-text guidelines, where available, and/or ordering information for print copies.

Other user-friendly features include:

  • What's New, which enables users to see what guidelines have been added each week and includes an index of all guidelines in the NGC.
  • NGC Update Service, a weekly electronic mailing of new guidelines and updates to existing guidelines being posted to the NGC Web site.
  • NGC Search and Browse, which permits users to find guidelines available on the NGC site by entering terms and/or selecting specific filter, such as disease/condition, treatment/intervention, or guideline issuing organization.
  • Responsive Web Design, which allows users to easily access NGC content and features, whether using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Technical Assistance Video Tutorials, which showcase how users can optimize their experience with the NCG Web site.

What Criteria Must Guidelines Meet?

For a clinical practice guideline to be considered for the NGC, developers must provide NGC with documentation of the systematic review, and the guideline must meet the criteria below. In addition to the guideline, developers must provide NGC with documentation of the underlying systematic review*.

  • Contains systematically developed statements including recommendations intended to optimize patient care and assist physicians and/or other healthcare practitioners and patients to make decisions about appropriate healthcare for specific clinical circumstances.
  • Produced under the auspices of a medical speciality association; relevant professional society; public or private organization; government agency at the Federal, State, or local level; or healthcare organization or plan. A clinical practice guideline developed and issued by an individual(s) not officially sponsored or supported by one of the above types of organizations does not meet the inclusion criteria for NGC.
  • Based on a systematic review of evidence as demonstrated by documentation of each of the following features in the clinical practice guideline or its supporting documents.
    • An explicit statement that the clinical practice guideline was based on a systematic review.
    • A description of the search strategy that includes a listing of database(s) searched, a summary of search terms used, and the specific time period covered by the literature search including the beginning date (month/year) and end date (month/year).
    • A description of study selection that includes the number of studies identified, the number of studies included, and a summary of inclusion and exclusion criteria.
    • A synthesis of evidence from the selected studies, e.g., a detailed description or evidence tables.
    • A summary of the evidence synthesis (see point above) included in the guideline that relates the evidence to the recommendations, e.g., a descriptive summary or summary tables.

    NB: A guideline is not excluded from NGC if a systematic review was conducted that identifies specific gaps in the evidence base for some of the guideline's recommendations.

  • The guideline or its supporting documents contain an assessment of the benefits and harms of recommended care and alternative care options.
  • Available full text in English to the public upon request (for free or for a fee). Upon submission of the guideline to NGC, it also must be noted whether the systematic review or other supporting documents are available in English to the public upon request (for free or for a fee).
  • The most recent version published. The guideline must have been developed, reviewed, or revised within the past 5 years, as evidenced by appropriate documentation (e.g., the systematic review or detailed description of methodology).

* Systematic reviews are literature reviews that summarize evidence by identifying, selecting, assessing, and synthesizing the findings of similar but separate studies. They can help clarify what is known and not known about the potential benefits and harms of drugs, devices, and other healthcare services.2
† To allow for a transition to the 2013 (revised) NGC inclusion criteria, in the scenario where the NGC inclusion team agrees that all other criteria and subcriteria are met, if an explicit statement that the clinical practice guideline was based on a systematic review is not provided, that subcriterion will be waived and the guideline included in NGC. Guideline developers will be advised of this omission and requested to correct it in future guidelines submitted to NGC.
‡ Effective May 2016, the exact date(s) when the literature search was performed is no longer required for a guideline to be included in NGC. Note that the specific time period covered by the literature search including the beginning date (month/year) and end date (month/year) is still required and will not be waived.

Who Uses the NGC?

The NGC provides varied audiences with an easy-to-use mechanism for obtaining objective, detailed information on clinical practice guidelines:

  • Individual physicians and other clinicians can review and use the NGC in clinical decisionmaking and patient counseling.
  • Health care organizations and integrated delivery systems can use information accessible through the NGC to adopt or adapt guidelines for their networks.
  • Medical specialty and professional societies can use NGC resources in their own guideline development efforts.
  • Employers and other large purchasers can use information from the NGC to assist them in making health care benefits purchasing decisions.
  • Educational institutions can incorporate information accessible through the NGC into their curricula and continuing education activities.
  • State and local governments can use the NGC in their quality assurance and program oversight efforts.

How Are Guidelines Submitted to the NGC?

Organizations interested in contributing guidelines should

  1. Review the NCG Inclusion Criteria. Use the Guideline Submission Checklist to gather information required and confirm your organization's guideline(s) meets NGC's criteria.
  2. Complete the Copyright Agreement Form. If your organization's guideline(s) are not in the public domain, NGC will need to receive copyright permission to abstract and post the guideline summary(ies).
  3. Send all guideline documents and any supporting guideline documentation (e.g., systematic review, evidence report, technology assessment) that provides the necessary elements to meet the NGC Inclusion Criteria to Acceptable formats are PDF, WORD, or URLs if guidelines are freely available. Include the name, address, telephone number, and email address of an appropriate contact person.

Hardware and Software Requirements

The Web pages of NGC are best presented by the current versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer External Web Site Policy, Mozilla Firefox External Web Site Policy, Apple Safari External Web Site Policy, and Google Chrome External Web Site Policy. These browsers render the site pages in nearly the same way. This site works with all browsers. The same content is available in every browser but the display of that content may differ according to the capabilities of each browser. NGC also recommends disabling pop-up blockers, since some content appears in pop-up windows.

The following browsers have been tested for compatibility with the NGC site:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, 9, 10, 11 (Windows).
  • Mozilla Firefox (Windows).
  • Apple Safari 6 and up (Macintosh).
  • Google Chrome (Windows).

For More Information

More information on the National Guideline Clearinghouse™ can be obtained from the NGC Web site or by contacting:

Mary Nix
Health Science Administrator
Center for Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 06E14
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: (301) 427-1600
Fax: (301) 427-1639

Users may also contact the NGC by email for more information on the guideline submission process or other features of the NGC.

Page last reviewed March 2018
Page originally created August 2012
Internet Citation: National Guideline Clearinghouse: Fact Sheet. Content last reviewed March 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.