A critical Pathway (CP) is a clinical management tool that helps medical care providers coordinate the delivery of patient care for a particular case type or condition. As a guide to usual treatment patterns, a CP gives a view of the "big picture." The CP usually recommends a total treatment regimen. Treatment regimens are formulated through the consensus of a multi-disciplinary collaboration of all those involved in a patient's care. If developed and implemented properly, critical paths can lead to desirable outcomes for the patient and improved operating effectiveness/efficiency for the healthcare facility. Components of CPs often include protocols, algorithms, and clinical practice guidelines. Metrics, bench-marks, compliance, and variances become common terms among members of the healthcare team. Although CPs have gained wide acceptance as inpatient management tools, they are rapidly being sought for outpatient settings as well. This article details the CP process and cites examples of two hospitals that have used CPs to reduce length of stay and cut costs.