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PICO Questions: Home

Find information, examples, tips, and resources to help you create a pico question.

What is PICO?

PICO is an acronym that allows you to translate a clinical observation, problem or trend into a focused question to help you quickly search the medical literature to identify relevant information to answer the question.  It means

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 you 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


Examples of PICO Questions

PICO questions can have varying formats and are often very specific.  Here are a few examples:

Is intermittent fasting (I) more effective than exercise (C) in improving glycemic control (O) in adults with type 2 diabetes (P) ?

*In some cases the comparison element of a PICO question is doing nothing or watchful waiting:

What is the effect of yoga (I) on reducing feelings of anxiety (O) in veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress (P)?

*For some topics, it is helpful to add T (time) to the question:

Is patient-controlled analgesia (I) more effective than nurse administered analgesia (C) in controlling pain (O) in knee arthroplasty patients (P) in the postoperative period (T)?

Learn more about PICO:

Begin Your Search with PICO

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