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Evidence Based Medicine: PICO

Information and resources about using EBM in patient care.

PICO

Before you start your search, it is important to have a well-built question. One way to construct a well-built question is to use the PICO model. PICO stands for patient/population, intervention, comparison and outcomes. 

Patient/Population Intervention Comparison Outcomes

Who is your patient?

  • Age, sex, race or patient
  • Primary problem
  • Health status

What do you plan on doing for the patient?

  • Diagnostic test
  • Medication
  • Procedure

What alternative are you considering?

  • Another test, medication or procedure
  • Watchful waiting

What do wish to accomplish?

  • Accurate diagnosis
  • Relieve or improve symptoms
  • Maintain function

Example:  Is adherence to the Mediterranean Diet associated with reduced risk of heart attack?

Patient/Population Intervention Comparison Outcomes
  • Adult
  • History of heart disease
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Typical diet
  • No comparison
  • Reduction in heart attacks

When you go to search the databases, you may not use all these terms in your search. For instance, you may start out using only the terms Mediterranean Diet and heart attacks.

  • If you retrieve too many results, add more terms to your search, or add more specific terms.
  • If you retrieve too few results, use fewer or more broad terms.

More information on formulating a PICO question

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