Evidence-Based Healthcare, Medicine, Practice

Evidence-based healthcare is the conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients or the delivery of health services. It is a process which combines the individual doctor’s expertise, the best available external clinical evidence, and the patient’s preferences when making decisions about the patient’s health care. (Sackett et al) Medicine has often been described as combining features of art and science. As I learned more about evidence-based healthcare the term “practicing medicine” continued to enter my mind. I began to realize that perhaps with the focus on patient safety and improving patient outcomes in regard to their particular health issue at hand, that medicine can no longer be a “practice,” which is defined as the ongoing pursuit of a craft or profession. Yet a practice based on historical facts, evidence, statistics, and proven results. So I researched the definition of medicine, I found the following: the definition of medicine encompasses a range of practices which aim to maintain and restore human health through the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine relies upon health science, biomedical research, and medical technology to diagnose and treat injury and disease, typically through medication, surgery, or some other form of therapy. It has traditionally been regarded as both an art and a science. (Wikipedia) Furthermore, evidence-based medicine is recognition that elements of clinical practice can, like a science, be quantified. In areas where unbiased scientific evidence is available then clinical practice should take into consideration the appropriate evidence. Delivering medicine is a practice and therefore clinical decisions are typically based on personal clinical experiences, one’s own understanding of health sciences, reviewing documented findings, or consulting with another knowledgeable healthcare provider. However, in the strong efforts and awareness of patient safety guidelines and rules, which are being strictly enforced by regulatory agencies, the implications of engaging in evidence-based practice is becoming a more sought after process of clinical decision making to improve patient outcomes. The need for current information and resulting statistics to be accessible by all healthcare stakeholders, which includes the patient, will be an ongoing need. The current literature databases available and healthcare libraries will continue to improve and grow. Being information literate will prove to be a necessity with finding, retrieving, and reviewing data in support of evidence-based healthcare. Barriers to evidence-based practice include, lack of convenient access to research materials, inability to use the technology to access the information needed for clinical decision making, lack of time, and colleagues who don’t use the evidence-based healthcare process to decision making about patient problems. This leads me to wonder if the healthcare informatics professional will become increasingly involved in the processes of using evidence-based healthcare. This would utilize the healthcare informatician’s skills in information literacy, gleaning the data and reporting the findings, and working in collaboration with nursing staff and physicians to disseminate and synthesize the information. This would allow the physician to concentrate on his patients, while the research is being done to provide best patient outcomes based on evidence. This should not take away the fact that the nurse and physician should continue to read research material and continue to utilize evidence-based practice themselves. However, the fact remains that nurses and physicians continue to find it difficult to find that cherished uninterrupted time to do adequate research. Using evidence-based healthcare optimizes patient outcomes. Healthcare organizations must realize and understand the benefits of evidence-based healthcare. These organizations need to then provide a way so information-seeking behavior becomes a valued component of delivering healthcare to its consumers. Organizations should realize how incredibly useful the healthcare informatics professional is to the endeavors of utilizing evidence-based healthcare in decision-making. Perhaps utilizing and engaging the abilities of the healthcare informatics professional, to assist in the evidence-based healthcare process would facilitate ongoing efforts of controlling costs, providing standards that can be measured and evaluated, and improving patient outcomes, all of which are so often sought after by healthcare organizations.

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