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Evidence-based health care and systematic reviews

 Are scientific methods used to determine which drugs and procedures are best for treating diseases?

The answers may surprise you. Modern health care is undergoing a long-overdue and dramatic evolution.

Evidence-based health care

  • Evidence-based health care is the conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients or the delivery of health services. Current best evidence is up-to-date information from relevant, valid research about the effects of different forms of health care, the potential for harm from exposure to particular agents, the accuracy of diagnostic tests, and the predictive power of prognostic factors [1].
  • Evidence-based clinical practice is an approach to decision-making in which the clinician uses the best evidence available, in consultation with the patient, to decide upon the option which suits that patient best [2].
  • Evidence-based medicine is the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The practice of evidence-based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research [3].

The Evidence-based Medicine Triad
Source: Florida State University, College of Medicine. Retrieved 08.07.11.

Systematic reviews

A systematic review is a high-level overview of primary research on a particular research question that tries to identify, select, synthesize and appraise all high quality research evidence relevant to that question in order to answer it.i

Key Points:

  1. Systematic reviews seek to collate all evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to address a specific research question
  2. Systematic reviews aim to minimise bias by using explicit, systematic methods
  3. The Cochrane Collaboration prepares, maintains and promotes systematic reviews to inform healthcare decisions: Cochrane Reviews

  • Further reading:

[1] Cochrane AL. Effectiveness and Efficiency : Random Reflections on Health Services. London: Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, 1972. Reprinted in 1989 in association with the BMJ. Reprinted in 1999 for Nuffield Trust by the Royal Society of Medicine Press, London, ISBN 1-85315-394-X. (temporarily out of print; new edition scheduled for early 2013)

[2] Gray JAM. 1997. Evidence-based healthcare: how to make health policy and management decisions. London: Churchill Livingstone.

[3] Sackett DL, Rosenberg WMC, Gray JAM, Haynes RB, Richardson WS. 1996. Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn't. BMJ 312: 71–2 [3] [Full text]


The PLoS Medicine Editors (2011) Best Practice in Systematic Reviews: The Importance of Protocols and Registration. PLoS Med 8(2): e1001009. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001009


Updated on: May 26, 2014, 11:28

Comments for improvement or correction are welcome.