What Is Evidence-Based Practice? (Importance and Elements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Health care professionals typically pursue improvements and innovations in current care practices and treatment methods. One of the proven methods that allow health care practitioners to achieve this is evidence-based practice (EBP). Understanding evidence-based practice and its elements can help you improve existing procedures and the medical community.

In this article, we answer "What is evidence-based practice?," discuss its importance, explore its elements, highlight the process of applying EBP, review the benefits of evidence-based practice, and provide helpful tips to guide you.

What is evidence-based practice in health care?

Evidence-based practice refers to translating and applying research findings, patient preferences, and clinical experience to clinical decision-making to provide optimal patient care. Various health care professionals use this method, but it typically applies to nurses.

In addition, health care professionals may regard practice and care plans developed through evidence-based practice as scientifically validated and some of the most effective treatment options. Generally, evidence-based practices allow health care professionals to make more informed decisions regarding patients' needs.

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Importance of evidence-based practice

Evidence-based practice is important for various reasons, including:

  • Uses science and research: EBP methods mostly consist of supported scientific theories of medicine, meaning health care professionals can provide their patients with the most informed and reliable treatments. Health care professionals also derive EBP procedures through majority agreement in the scientific industry, which helps them create innovative and advanced care options validated by extensive scientific research and studies.

  • Allows for continual evolution of treatment: The understanding of effective health care is constantly evolving through scientific research. As a result, EBP treatments may also improve and evolve based on new evidence.

  • Addresses patients' needs and preferences: Although scientific validation and research typically make up EBP treatments, patient needs and preferences are also important for implementing these treatments. Considering specific needs helps health care professionals provide customized treatment plans to patients and promote empowerment and self-advocacy within patients.

  • Promotes optimal treatments: Combining clinical experience, patient preferences, and scientifically proven practices, EBP ensures that patients get the best possible care for their peculiar health care needs and situations. In addition, EBP practices ensure patients receive the most updated and recent care possible.

Elements of evidence-based practice

There are various elements of evidence-based practice. You can categorize these elements into three levels that measure the quality of research, studies, and validity of these elements:

Level A

Health care professionals consider the evidence at this level to include the strongest and most valid among scientific studies and research. The methods to derive level A evidence include:

  • Meta-analysis or systemic review: These processes refer to thorough assessments of existing evidence that assess a clinical question. Statistical review and data analysis are also other methods researchers may use as determining factors.

  • Randomized control trials: These trials involve randomly selected volunteer subjects that undergo interventions and strictly controlled experimental conditions to derive unbiased results from the study.

  • Clinical practice guidelines: This process may provide the best evidence of validity and quality based on thorough reviews of generally accepted health care practices based on scientific and research confirmation.

Level B

Health care professionals typically consider evidence on this level as moderately valid in scientific research and studies. The methods to derive level B evidence include:

  • Non-randomized control trials: In these studies, the volunteer subjects may not share equal clinical and demographic variables, which may slightly affect the study's validity, but some researchers may regard non-randomized trials as being almost as effective as randomized control trials.

  • Clinical cohort studies: Clinical cohort studies entail assessing subjects with common and uncommon exposure levels to particular environments or physical stimuli to discover cause and effect.

  • Case-controlled studies: Researchers observe volunteer subjects with known outcomes or diseases to those without diseases or outcomes to estimate the chances of developing particular outcomes or diseases and the factors affecting the probability.

Level C

Health care professionals consider the evidence in Level C to have the least credibility among scientific research and studies: Evidence on this level may result from:

  • Meta-synthesis: This process involves studying evidence obtained from research and applying minor aspects to larger studies, such as individual case studies to clinical studies.

  • Consensus viewpoint and expert opinion: These studies typically involve a review panel of experts that reach a majority agreement about some health care practices when no quantitative or qualitative studies exist on a particular practice.

Process of applying evidence-based practice

Some health care professionals may not have the time to assess all the levels of evidence before applying EBP in their workplace. They typically rely on a six-step application process that ensures effective EBP procedures. The steps in this process include:

  • Ask questions: It's essential to ask questions about improving current practices before applying EBP to existing treatment protocol or treatment. Health care professionals may also contemplate improving some aspects of existing procedures using evidence-based practice and why EBP may be the most appropriate improvement method before considering other options.

  • Access available evidence: Health care professionals may seek access to important evidence that can help them confirm their theories after determining why and how evidence-based practice can improve current practices. These professionals may contact academic institutions, scan databases, and search clinical research libraries to find and access archives and published studies.

  • Appraise literature: After obtaining the relevant documents, health care professionals may conduct an appraisal of these documents. Conducting an appraisal includes sorting, reviewing, and reading relevant literature to understand the validity of their theories.

  • Apply findings: If the literal appraisal confirms that the EBP application theory may improve existing procedures, health care professionals may include the evidence in their decision-making procedures. In addition, they may incorporate the new knowledge into their clinical experience and patient preferences to create evidence-based recommendations for daily practices.

  • Evaluate the results: It's essential to review the data and record the approach's success after incorporating the EBP into existing practices. In addition, it's important for this evaluation to include changes and revisions made to the original procedures and results of the evidence-based practice integration.

  • Share results: Sharing the outcomes of EBP integration may improve patient outcomes as different health care professionals may make and share improvements and innovations to these methods.

Benefits of evidence-based practice

Some of the benefits of evidence-based practice include that its implementation:

Keeps health care professionals up-to-date

Due to technological advancements, there are discoveries in the medical field. Researchers also conduct more studies on diseases and treatment methods. As a result, it's important for health care professionals to stay updated and learn about recent developments. Developing evidence-based practices requires research that may help health care professionals study and learn about different protocols for various situations.

Improves the decision-making processes

Comprehensive research helps health care professionals make more informed decisions regarding a situation. In addition, the evidence-based practice method requires these professionals to find relevant information, analyze them, and derive the best approach to produce the desired outcome. As a result, better decision-making helps improve the health care professional's confidence and ensure patients receive the best care possible.

Increases patient recovery

Combing clinical expertise and experience with extensive research ensures that health care professionals find the most effective treatment techniques. For instance, nurses may research a patient's symptoms and discover effective treatment methods for that condition. Discovering tested treatment methods can help patients get better diagnoses and precise treatments which may help them recover quickly.

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Understands the risks of treatments

Researching previous cases of a condition and the patient's symptoms can help health care professionals find potential outcomes and implement preventive measures when treating their patients. For instance, health care professionals can learn the side effects by researching the medicine. Then they can use this information to find alternative treatment plans for patients who the side effects may affect.

Gives patients a role in planning the care

EBP methods include patients when making treatment plans. Health care professionals may talk to patients, ask their opinions, and allow them to make decisions about their treatment. Allowing patients to participate in their treatment procedure can help them feel more confident and provide some level of independence. In addition, it may help patients advocate for themselves in instances that the professional may have missed.

Tips for implementing evidence-based practices

Here are some tips to help you implement EBP in your workplace:

Identify and organize resources for your research

It may be beneficial for you to have databases, books, and other materials at your disposal for research purposes. Easy access to relevant resources can help you reduce the time for searching and verifying evidence sources. In addition, it may be beneficial for senior colleagues to act as mentors to younger professionals and share their expertise and experience with them.

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Establish patient-focused goals

It can be beneficial to create goals that focus on the patients to ensure that you develop customized treatment plans for specific conditions. It also helps you achieve better diagnosis and treatment of conditions. It's advisable to research each case individually when developing EBP for your patients. In addition, patient-focused goals may require you to discuss with the patient, making them feel more involved in their treatments.

Provide education and training

Some hospitals and health centres may offer staff training exercises and education courses that expose them to different patient conditions and treatment types. These programs may help them learn and understand their roles in the medical team. In addition, it may help foster collaboration between the medical staff, which can foster evidence-based practice.

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