Clinical questions can be divided into two types:
Straus, S. E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S., & Haynes, R. B. (2011). Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach it.(4th ed.) (p.15). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
The PICO (or PICOT*, or other similar acronyms) format is a way to formulate an answerable clinical question.
The components of this type of question are:
Patient population/disease: characteristics might include age, gender, ethnicity, or those with a specific disorder
Intervention or issue of interest: examples might include therapy, exposure to disease, a prognostic factor, or a risk behavior
Comparison intervention or issue of interest: examples might include an alternative therapy, placebo, or no intervention/therapy; no disease; a different prognostic factor; or absence of a risk factor
Outcome: examples might include the outcome expected from a therapy, risk of disease, accuracy of diagnosis, or rate of occurrence of an adverse outcome
Time*: Possibilities could be the time it takes for the intervention to achieve the outcome, or the time over which populations are observed for the outcome to occur
Fineout-Overholt, E., & Stillwell, S. B. (2011). Asking compelling, clinical questions. In B. M. Melnyk & E. Fineout-Overholt (Eds.), Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare: A guide to best practice (p. 30). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health.
Central issues in clinical work, where clinical questions often arise
Straus, S. E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S., & Haynes, R. B. (2011). Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach it. (4th ed.) (p. 18). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
Question type: Intervention or therapy
Definition: To determine which treatment leads to the best outcome
Template: In (P), how does (I) compared with (C) affect (O) within (T)?
Question type: Etiology
Definition: To determine the greatest risk factors or causes of a condition
Template: Are (P) who have (I), compared with those without (C), at __ risk for (O) over (T)?
Question type: Diagnosis or diagnostic test
Definition: To determine which test is more accurate and precise in diagnosing a condition
Template: In (P), are/is (I) compared with (C) more accurate in diagnosing (O)?
Question type: Prognosis or prediction
Definition: To determine the clinical course over time and likely complications of a condition
Template: In (P), how does (I) compared with (C), influence (O) over (T)?
Question type: Meaning
Definition: To understand the meaning of an experience for a particular individual, group, or community
Template: How do (P) with (I) perceive (O) during (T)?
Stillwell, S. B., Fineout-Overholt, E., Melnyk, B. M., & Williamson, K. M. (2010). Asking the clinical question: A key step in evidence-based practice. The American Journal of Nursing, 110(3), pp. 58-61. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000368959.11129.79
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