Defined by Sackett et al (1996) as, “the conscientious and judicious use of current best evidence from clinical care research in the management of individual patients”, evidence based medicine is, in basic terms, the practice of using scientific research and reviews to influence medical decision-making; this can, for example, be deciding which drug should be used to treat an illness based on its performance in medical trials. Using evidence based medicine aims to eliminate decision-making based on more traditional methods in favour of using solid scientific proof. The process of using tried and tested methods aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of patient care whilst also saving time and eliminating unnecessary costs.
Today, evidence based medicine is used throughout the U.K and in many other parts of the world from medicine to even the work of dentists. The use of this practice forms an integral part of modern medical care and doctors are therefore required to keep abreast of current medical research and to subsequently use this to form the basis of their practical decision-making. The General Medical Council (GMC) now includes the use of evidence based medicine in their clinical guidelines and this approach is also recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The Process of Using Evidence Based Medicine
The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine asserts that the process of using evidence based medicine is best defined by the use of a 5 step system; these steps include, breaking down health-related problems into specific clinical questions, finding the evidence by means of reading journals and examining systematic reviews, interpreting and analysing the evidence, making a decision based on that interpretation and finally, evaluating the decision by means of its success or failure.
Consulting the Evidence
Databases such as The Cochrane Library, the principal outlet of the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent organisation which carries out numerous analyses of procedures and clinical trials, holds several thousand systematic reviews for clinicians to consult; this library is constantly updated with the results of continuous controlled randomised trials and systematic reviews.