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Open or targeted consultation

Consultations may be open to the public, targeted to relevant patient or public groups and other stakeholders, or both. Open and targeted consultation methods each have potential advantages and disadvantages, as outlined in table 2. Awareness of these can help developers to select the most suitable method for a specific guideline.

Table 2 Open or targeted consultation – selecting a suitable approach

Type of consultationDescriptionPotential advantagesPotential disadvantages
OpenPublic posting of draft documents and questions, which would need to be well publicised. Guideline developers could have an interactive online feature to notify interested parties of the topics, anticipated comment periods, and actual postingsThis option has the merit of transparency and, in theory, opens up the process to all interested parties and viewpointsGuideline developers may be overwhelmed with the volume of feedback

Guideline developers may receive inadequate feedback if publicity is limited and no one feels responsible
TargetedBy invitation to all relevant stakeholder organisations, or to groups and individuals with relevant interestTargeting invitations may be more effective in generating responses

When patient or public stakeholders are not known to guideline developers (or key organisations have not registered their interest), a focus on targeted consultation can help developers plan ahead to find individuals or groups and invite them to contribute to the guideline development process

Invited organisations can be more willing to partner in other stages of the guideline, such as dissemination (sometimes organisations who have not had any involvement are reluctant to help with dissemination strategies)

The volume of feedback should be manageable
Important viewpoints may be overlooked or avoided if targeted consultation is not combined with an open invitation to contribute

Invited individuals or organisations may not be interested or able to respond in a timely manner
Open and targetedPublic posting of draft documents and questions combined with targeted invitations to all relevant stakeholder organisations or groups and individuals with relevant interestCombines openness and transparency with reaching all relevant stakeholder organisations or targeted groups or individualsGuideline developers may be overwhelmed with the volume of feedback