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What is Evidence-Based Practice?

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  • Written By: Samantha Bangayan
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Evidence-based practice is the use of empirically supported diagnostic methods and treatment in health care. To ensure the best diagnosis and treatment for the patient, they must be proven to be effective by systematic research. Treatments or inventions that are not backed by rigorous research are considered potentially harmful and are not implemented in health care. Evidence-based practice is implemented in areas such as medicine, nursing, social work, and mental health. Professional health organizations and health insurance providers encourage the shift from intuitive decision making to evidence-based treatment.

In the past, diagnostic methods and interventions were primarily based on tradition and the experience and intuition of health practitioners who may or may not have been correct in their assumptions. With the development of the scientific method, practitioners began to see the value in having the ability to prove the effectiveness of a certain diagnostic method or treatment. Not only would practitioners be able to provide the best options for their patients, but they could also focus their efforts on improving worthwhile interventions. An evidence-based practice sifts through the wide variety of available diagnostic methods and treatments to identify which are successful and disregard those that are risky. This kind of practice also encourages practitioners to stay up-to-date on the latest research, which promotes the development of improved care.

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Defining evidence-based practices relies on collecting research-based evidence and interpreting the data before implementing diagnostic methods, treatments, or interventions. Data gathering may include research articles and other evidence-based sources, such as textbooks and experienced practitioners. Data interpretation requires critical assessment of the information gathered.

The strongest evidence includes systematic reviews and randomized clinical trials in which the subjects of an experiment are randomly assigned to experimental groups. Evidence often cannot be cleanly categorized into evidence-based or nonevidence-based groups. Instead, they will often fall along a continuum between the two categories. A critical appraisal of research studies, therefore, depends on determining the stronger study based on the quality of research.

Armed with the most effective evidence-based treatment, the practitioner must still make an individualized decision by choosing the best option from the evidence to meet the needs of a specific patient, taking into account the client’s medical history, culture, and family values. After implementing the empirically supported treatment, an evidence-based practice necessitates a follow-up evaluation of the diagnosis or treatment’s effectiveness. This information can help practitioners improve on care in the future.

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