PICO helps you to structure an answerable clinical question. The PICO approach also helps you build a search strategy by clearly identifying all parts of the clinical question:
Patient or problem
How would you describe a group of patients? What is the problem? What illness? What age?
Intervention, exposure, or prognostic factor
What main intervention are you considering? What do you want to do with this patient?
Are you considering an alternative intervention, or no intervention?
What are you trying to accomplish, measure, improve or affect?
It may be helpful to identify the following in more detail:
Type of intervention
Type of study
What do you want to do for this patient or group of patients?
Select the best treatment for a diagnosis.
Select the best diagnostic test for a diagnosis.
Select the best preventive measure for a disease.
Harm or etiology
Identify causes or risk factors for a disease.
Identify a patient's likely clinical course over time.
Remember: PICO is a model and not a strict protocol. The PICO model tends to work better with therapy and diagnostic questions.
Study types are differentiated by strength of evidence. The type of intervention you're investigating will determine what kind of study is appropriate. Depending on your clinical question, the highest levels of evidence (systematic review and meta-analysis) may not be available:
Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) / Systematic Review / Meta-Analysis of RCT
Controlled Trial / Systematic Review / Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trial
Randomized Controlled Trial / Cohort Study
Harm or etiology
Cohort Study / Case-Control Study / Case Series
From: Straus, Sharon E. Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach EBM.
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