Guidelines are sets of evidence-based recommendations that aid decision-making about care in specific health systems and resource settings. In clinical practice for diabetic retinopathy (DR), guidelines provide recommendations to health care professionals about prevention, screening, treatment, and/or management of the condition.
Protocols are agreed frameworks outlining the care that will be provided to patients in a designated area of practice, such as vision health screening for people who have diabetes. They do not describe how a procedure is performed, but why, where, when and by whom the care is given.
In real-world settings, health care can be inconsistent from one health care professional to the next. This decreases the likelihood that all people with diabetes will maintain their function. The development, uptake, and ongoing utilization of guidelines and protocols enable improved consistency in clinical care and therefore equal access to evidence-based care for people living with diabetes. It is also necessary to periodically revise the recommendations and frameworks for care to reflect the most up-to-date evidence.