Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate Getting research findings into practice

Using research findings in clinical practice

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 01 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:339
  1. S E Straus, deputy director (,
  2. D L Sackett, director
  1. NHS Research and Development Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust, Oxford OX3 9DU
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Straus

    In clinical practice caring for patients generates many questions about diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment that challenge health professionals to keep up to date with the medical literature. A study of general practitioners in North America found that two clinically important questions arose for every three patients seen.1 The challenge in keeping abreast of the medical literature is the volume of literature. General physicians who want to keep up with relevant journals face the task of examining 19 articles a day 365 days a year.2

    One approach to meeting these challenges and avoiding clinical entropy is to learn how to practise evidence based medicine. Evidence based medicine involves integrating clinical expertise with the best available clinical evidence derived from systematic research.3 Individual clinical expertise is the proficiency and judgment that each clinician acquires through clinical experience and practice. Best available clinical evidence is clinically relevant research which may be from the basic sciences of medicine, but especially that derived from clinical research that is patient centred, that evaluates the accuracy and precision of diagnostic tests and prognostic markers, and the efficacy and safety of therapeutic, rehabilitative, and preventive regimens. This paper focuses on what evidence based medicine is and how it can be practised by busy clinicians.

    The practice of evidence based medicine is a process of lifelong self directed learning in which caring for patients creates a need for clinically important information about diagnoses, prognoses, treatment, and other healthcare issues. The box at the bottom of the next page illustrates the five steps necessary to the practice of evidence based medicine.

    Summary points

    • Practising evidence based medicine allows clinicians to keep up with the rapidly growing body of medical literature

    • Evidence based medicine improves clinicians' skills in asking answerable questions and finding the best evidence to answer these questions …

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