Intended for healthcare professionals

Information In Practice

Obtaining useful information from expert based sources

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 29 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:947
  1. David C Slawson, associate professor (dslawson{at},
  2. Allen F Shaughnessy, director of researchb
  1. a Department of Family Medicine University of Virginia Charlottesville VA 22908 USA
  2. b Harrisburg Family Practice Residency Program Harrisburg PA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Slawson
  • Accepted 5 March 1997


Clinicians rely heavily on expert based systems– consultation with colleagues, journal reviews and textbooks, and continuing education activities–to obtain new information. The usefulness of sources such as these depends on the relevance and validity of the information and the work it takes to obtain it. Useful information can be distinguished from the useless by asking three questions: Does the information focus on an outcome that my patients care about? Is the issue common to my practice, and is the intervention feasible? If the information is true, will it require me to change my practice? If the answer to all three questions is yes, then the information is a common POEM (patient oriented evidence that matters), capable of improving the lives of your patients and must be evaluated for validity. Conclusions based on results of well designed clinical trials are more likely to be valid than those drawn from observations based on experience in clinical practice. Both members of the team, clinicians and experts, must take responsibility for their respective roles.


  • Accepted 5 March 1997
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