Although Evidence Based Medicine (also known as Evidence Based Practice) is a complex practice involving several careful steps, its core principle is simple: decisions about patient care should be informed by the best available research data. Patient values and preferences, clinician expertise and the patient's clinical state and circumstances are also accounted for in the EBM model. Because the emphasis in EBM is on translating the best evidence from the research literature into clinical practice, efficient literature searching and application of formal rules of evidence in appraising research findings comprise core skills of EBM practice1.
The goals of this tutorial are to clearly outline the theory of evidence based medicine and to explain how that theory can be put to practice in the day-to-day work of caring for patients.
The "5A's Cycle" of EBM includes assessing the patient and prioritizing questions about his/her care, asking a focused clinical question, acquiring the evidence to answer the question, appraising the research and applying the research findings to patient care. The cycle begins again with an assessment of the patient and the patient's care2.
The tutorial is focused primarily on the second and third steps of the Evidence Cycle: asking questions and acquiring the best evidence. In particular, it suggests specific strategies for finding evidence from primary studies, systematic reviews and meta-analyses using tools currently available in PubMed's MEDLINE interface. Appraisal is briefly touched upon, with suggestions for scanning search results to identify articles more likely to yield robust, applicable evidence.
By the end of this tutorial, you should be able to:
This tutorial assumes you already have some familiarity with basic and advanced PubMed search techniques, as well as with MeSH searching.
There are many excellent online and print guides that address the critical appraisal of a research report and the application of evidence to an individual patient's care. You will find links to selected resources that provide especially rich content in these areas in the Appraise and Apply modules of this tutorial.
(1) Guyatt G, Cairns J, Churchill D, et al. Evidence-Based Medicine: A New Approach to Teaching the Practice of Medicine. JAMA. 1992;268(17):2420-2425. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490170092032
(2) Guyatt G, Rennie D, Meade MO, Cook DL. Users' Guides to the Medical Literature: A Manual for Evidence-Based Clinical Practice. 2nd ed. New York: NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2008.