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Evidence Based Medicine: A short background and brief literature review


Evidence-Based Practice...

"A way of providing health care that is guided by a thoughtful integration of the best available scientific knowledge with clinical expertise. This approach allows the practitioner to critically assess research data, clinical guidelines, and other information resources in order to correctly identify the clinical problem, apply the most high-quality intervention, and re-evaluate the outcome for future improvement." (2009 Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)).




"Twenty years ago, you could read all the literature in your field," said reference librarian Kathy Robbins, PhD, MLIS, scanning shelf after shelf of medical journals at the University of Minnesota Bio-Medical Library in Minneapolis. "Now, 6000 journal articles are published each day."1

(That would be thirty five years ago today.)


Historically there “were a number of physicians who seem to have courted the sort of deference more likely to be associated with landed gentility.”2


“Evidence based medicine quickly became an energetic intellectual community committed to making clinical practice more scientific and empirically grounded and thereby achieving safer, more consistent, and more cost effective care.Achievements included establishing the Cochrane Collaboration to collate and summarize evidence from clinical trials;4 setting methodological and publication standards for primary and secondary research;5 building national and international infrastructures for developing and updating clinical practice guidelines;6 developing resources and courses for teaching critical appraisal;7 and building the knowledge base for implementation and knowledge translation.8”9 



1. Levin, A. (2001). The Cochrane Collaboration. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 135(4), 309-312.

2. Lawrence, C. (1985). Incommunicable knowledge: Science, technology and the clinical art in britain 1850-1914. Journal of Contemporary History, 20(4), 503-520. Retrieved from

3. Pope C. Resisting evidence: the study of evidence-based medicine as a contemporary social movement. Health 2003;7:267-82.

4. Levin A. The Cochrane Collaboration. Ann Intern Med 2001;135:309-12. [PubMed]

5. Simera I, Moher D, Hirst A, Hoey J, Schulz KF, Altman D. Transparent and accurate reporting increases reliability, utility, and impact of your research: reporting guidelines and the EQUATOR Network. BMC Med 2010;8:24. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

6. Hill J, Bullock I, Alderson P. A summary of the methods that the National Clinical Guideline Centre uses to produce clinical guidelines for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Ann Intern Med 2011;154:752-7. [PubMed]

7. Horsley T, Hyde C, Santesso N, Parkes J, Milne R, Stewart R. Teaching critical appraisal skills in healthcare settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011;11: CD001270. [PubMed]

8. McCormack L, Sheridan S, Lewis M, Boudewyns V, Melvin CL, Kistler C. Communication and dissemination strategies to facilitate the use of health-related evidence. Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments No 213. US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2013.

9.Greenhalgh, T., Howick, J., & Maskrey, N. (2014). Evidence based medicine: a movement in crisis?. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 348g3725. doi:10.1136/bmj.g3725





MeSH headings for types of evidence...see below

Evidence Hierarchy

Science Librarian

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