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Changing Provider Behavior in the Context of Chronic Disease Management: Focus on Clinical Inertia

Kim L Lavoie, Joshua A Rash, Tavis S Campbell

Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Vol. 57:263-283 (Volume publication date January 2017) https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010716-104952


Widespread acceptance of evidence-based medicine has led to the proliferation of clinical practice guidelines as the primary mode of communicating current best practices across a range of chronic diseases. Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the benefits of their use, there is a long history of poor uptake by providers. Nonadherence to clinical practice guidelines is referred to as clinical inertia and represents provider failure to initiate or intensify treatment despite a clear indication to do so. Here we review evidence for the ubiquity of clinical inertia across a variety of chronic health conditions, as well as the organizational and system, patient, and provider factors that serve to maintain it. Limitations are highlighted in the emerging literature examining interventions to reduce clinical inertia. An evidence-based framework to address these limitations is proposed that uses behavior change theory and advocates for shared decision making and enhanced guideline development and dissemination.

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Keywords: Clinical inertia, therapeutic inertia, diagnostic inertia, clinical practice guidelines, evidence-based medicine