You may not have heard of evidence-based medicine (EBM), but if you’ve recently visited a doctor or stayed in the hospital, chances are it has influenced your treatment plan.

Sometimes known as evidenced-based healthcare or evidence-based practice, evidence-based medicine is based on the idea that doctors and caregivers use the most current information to help make informed decisions about patient treatment.

“Evidence-based” means that a specific method has been used to research, review, and evaluate the most appropriate clinical study results available. Physicians and other medical professionals might use research or their own expertise, but one or the other isn’t enough. EBM hopes to unite clinical evidence and professional knowledge to help direct the decision-making process and, ultimately, benefit the patient. EBM hopes to answer the questions, “Will this intervention work to fix or prevent the problem?” and “Will this intervention be without significant harm?”

Doctors use  EBM because it encourages consistency in treatment and prevention of common illnesses and offers a justification of treatment options. EBM can also be viewed as a guide to helping health care providers ask more focused, specific questions. Instead of asking “What is the best way to treat a migraine?” a better question might be, “Which drug is better for reducing the frequency of migraines in adolescents?”

According to the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, the five components of EBM are:

  1. Ask focused questions.
  2. Find appropriate evidence.
  3. Evaluate the evidence.
  4. Make a decision.
  5. Evaluate the performance.

By using these steps, medical professionals can not only improve patient care but also optimize their own performances. Interestingly, EBM is being used in several fields, including physical therapy, dentistry, engineering, and education.

Without EBM, treatments can risk becoming out of date. But by using EBM to ask targeted questions and continuously test treatment protocols against current research, caregivers can aim to maximize their everyday practices.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, January 2020

Takeaways

  • Evidence-based medicine (EBM) uses current information to help healthcare providers make informed decisions about the treatment of their patients.
  • “Evidence-based” means a specific method has been used to research, review, and evaluate the most appropriate clinical study results available.
  • EBM includes asking focused questions and evaluating evidence.
  • The goal of EBM is to improve patient care.

References

  1. Centre for Evidence Based Medicine. What Is EBM?
  2. British Medical Journal. Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn’t.

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