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Evidence-Based Practice for Health Professionals

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Asking the Clinical Question

Evidence based practice requires that clinicians make use of the best research they can find to help them in decision-making. To find that research efficiently, the clinician must ask a well-designed clinical question with all the elements that will lead to finding relevant research literature.

The first step in doing this is to determine the type of question: background or foreground. The type of question helps to determine the resource to access to answer the question.

What Is PICO?

Evidence-based practice uses the PICO model for formulating a searchable question. 

PICO is a mnemonic used to describe the four elements of a good clinical foreground question:

  • P = Population/Problem/Patient
    • How would I describe the problem or a group of patients similar to mine?
  • I = Intervention
    • What main intervention, prognostic factor or exposure am I considering?
  • C = Comparison
    • Is there an alternative to compare with the intervention?
  • O = Outcome
    • What do I hope to accomplish, measure, improve or affect?