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ABSTRACT: In January of 1993, as part of a hospital-wide cost-reduction strategy, the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center Respiratory Care Department implemented a patient-driven protocol program designed to utilize the assessment skills and judgments of respiratory care staff, within physician-approved guidelines. This program produced a 60% reduction in the use of hand-held nebulizer therapy and chest physical therapy in the institution, with a substantial decrease in operational expenses. This article describes key elements of the implementation of protocol-driven programs, provides examples from the UCSD experience, and offers insights gained from others who have been successful agents of change. It describes patient-driven protocols, how they can be implemented, the barriers to and promoters of such protocols, and what the results can be for a respiratory care department.Respiratory Care Clinics 04/1996; 2(1):51-76.