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C55413: Evaluating the best evidence for clinical decision-making

Increasingly, our clinical actions and the advice we offer to patients is influenced by the latest research published. But how are we to interpret the many studies and their outcomes? In the first in an occasional series looking at research analysis and its influence on modes of practice, Dr Catherine Suttle explains how we might interpret published evidence

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an approach to clinical decision-making in which the best available evidence is used, together with the practitioner’s expertise and the patient’s preferences, to arrive at the decision most likely to have a beneficial outcome.1 Figure 1 illustrates this concept, with three key factors combined to make a clinical decision. Research has shown that, at least in medicine, EBP is more effective in terms of improved patient outcomes than clinical decision-making that does not seek to use best evidence.2

Figure 1: Three key factors influencing a clinical decision

Optometrists are involved, either independently or in shared care, in decisions that are likely to have important consequences for patients’ visual and general health. The adoption of an evidence-based approach to clinical decision-making in optometry is therefore important and is taking place throughout the profession, with some core competencies now specifying EBP3 and evidence-based clinical guidelines being made available to practitioners.4

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