‘Living’ guidelines go live

health professional at computer with magnifying glass

Pharmacists comprise part of the taskforce behind newly released guidelines updated in near real time, to help Australian clinicians deliver best care during COVID-19 crisis

A coalition of peak Australian health professional groups has come together to develop and release new “living guidelines” that will provide world-first, continually updated evidence-based guidance to clinicians caring for people with COVID-19.

The guidelines have been developed with coordination by the new National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, which has been convened by the Australian Living Evidence Consortium which is based at Cochrane Australia in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.

Teams of researchers, experts and clinicians have been working “around the clock” to deliver the national guidelines for the clinical care of people with COVID-19 across primary, acute and critical care settings, says the taskforce in a release.

Using evidence surveillance and automation, the taskforce will identify and summarise global COVID-19 research findings and feed this evidence to guideline panels every week.

The results will then be delivered into the hands of clinicians at point of care, providing a trusted single source of advice to help inform clinical decisions.

Chair of the Taskforce, Associate Professor Julian Elliott, says Australia’s efforts towards generating “living” clinical guidelines in areas like stroke and diabetes have now pivoted to focus wholly on helping clinicians manage COVID-19.

“There is urgent need to arm Australia’s healthcare professionals with evidence-based guidance about how best to care for people with COVID-19,” said A/Prof Elliott.

“These will be ‘living guidelines’, updated with new research in near real-time in order to give reliable, up-to-the minute recommendations to the clinicians during this unprecedented health crisis. These guidelines will help our frontline clinicians treat COVID-19 with confidence, knowing that their approach is backed by evidence and the very latest research from around the world,” he said. 

There is a lot of conflicting advice circulating and not all of it is based on good quality evidence.—A/Prof Julian Elliott

“We can leverage our world-leading technologies and our partnership with the globally trusted Cochrane network to make sure Australian healthcare professionals have the very best information at their finger-tips,” said A/Prof Elliott.

The initial focus of the guidelines will be on:

  • Definitions of disease severity
  • Monitoring and markers of clinical deterioration
  • Antiviral medications and other disease modifying treatments
  • Respiratory support

The taskforce will be funded by the Australian Government, together with contributions from the Victorian Government, the Ian Potter Foundation and the Walter Cottman Endowment Fund managed by Equity Trustees.

Meanwhile the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) has announced it is a member of the taskforce.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels said the guidelines will distil the latest evidence from around the world to inform healthcare teams caring for Australians with COVID-19.

“This marks a key moment in Australia’s coordinated, national effort to better understand coronavirus and manage the potentially fatal symptoms of COVID-19,” said Ms Michaels.

“As the only pharmacy organisation member, SHPA’s representatives to the taskforce will provide medicines expertise to support the rapid review of national and international clinical evidence, and ensure our clinicians at the front line have access to reliable, up-to-the minute recommendations during this unprecedented health crisis,” she added.

Ms Michaels said the guidelines exemplify the power of collaboration and the commitment Australian health organisations to work together to help clinicians who are at the front line of clinical care.

“The taskforce will be working weekly with its members, collaborators, medical associations and other stakeholders to ensure the uptake and utility of the guidelines by Australian healthcare professionals,” she said.

“Our shared mission is to ensure that Australians receive the best possible care during the COVID-19 outbreak. Nothing is more important at this critical time.”

The guidelines are available at www.covid19evidence.net.au

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