Despite unprecedented advances in biomedical knowledge and the highest per capita health care expenditures in the world, the quality and outcomes of health care for Americans vary dramatically across the country. Improved knowledge about which treatments and procedures are effective could lead to less regional differences, stronger consensus on standards and guidelines, and lower costs.

To this end, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked the Institute of Medicine to convene a committee to recommend methods to better identify the most effective health care services. This resultant report provides a blueprint for a national clinical effective assessment program. One of the committee's key recommendations is that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services create a single entity (the Program) with the authority, resources and capacity to: (1) set priorities for evidence assessment; (2) assess evidence (systematic review); and (3) develop or endorse standards for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.

The central premise underlying the report is that decisions about the care of individual patients should be based on the current best evidence available, and that having a single body charged with evaluating and sorting information will help to clarify for physicians, health care providers, and patients which evidence is valid.