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What is evidence based practice?

File 175388There is much debate about what EBP is and whether the traditional model of EBP needs updating.


Useful definitions

The term evidence-based practice (EBP) has developed from the term evidence-based medicine (EBM) which was introduced into medical literature in 1991 [1].

A commonly used definition of EBM is:
'the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients' [2].

In 2005, an EBM international working group introduced the term evidence-based practice (EBP) and published ‘the Sicily statement on evidence-based practice’ which includes the following definition:

'Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) requires that decisions about health care are based on the best available, current, valid and relevant evidence. These decisions should be made by those receiving care, informed by the tacit and explicit knowledge of those providing care, within the context of available resources'[3].

File 174496Both definitions suggest that EBP requires the integration of best research evidence, individual clinical expertise and patient choice.

The diagram demonstrates the importance of different sources of evidence, from research, clinical practice and patients. For each individual patient and every clinical decision, the relative contribution of each evidence source (size of circle) may vary considerably.

Further resources

Watch a Physiotherapy UK 2015 debate on research evidence

The above video covers a debate that took place at Physiotherapy UK 2015 discussing the motion 'this house believes that in the absence of research evidence an intervention should not be used'.

Professor Sallie Lamb, University of Oxford and Professor Rob de Bie, Maastricht University spoke for the motion, while associate Professor Roger Kerry, University of Nottingham and Professor Michael Loughlin, Manchester Metropolitan University spoke against. The ‘againsts’ won the debate.

See more on this debate

References used on this page

  • [1] Guyatt G Evidence-based medicine ACP J Club 1991 A-16:114
  • [2] Sackett DL et al. 1996 Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn’t. BMJ 1996; 312: 71-2
  • [3] Dawes M, Summerskill W, Glasziou P et al 2005 Sicily statement on evidence-based practice BMC Medical Education 5(1) 1-7


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