What is evidence-based practice? Importance and components

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 July 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.

An important part of health care provision is innovating and developing new ways to treat patients and offer care. Evidence-based health care, or evidence-based practice (EBP), is a modern approach to health care that combines clinical experience, scientific research and patient requirements to produce improved treatment methods. Medical professionals can benefit from learning about EBP, as it helps them contribute to the field and positively impact patients' lives. In this article, we answer 'What is evidence-based practice?', discuss its importance, explore its key components and look at how to apply EBP to current care standards.

What is evidence-based practice in health care?

Evidence-based practice is reviewing, analysing and translating the insights healthcare professionals gather through clinical experience, research and patient feedback to inform healthcare techniques. Health care organisations can take treatment plans and practices that EBP produces and use them as effective and scientifically valid care options. This approach enables healthcare professionals to make the best possible decisions for their patients based on data and other insights. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence offers guidelines for effectively and appropriately putting EBP into practice. Other organisations put out similar procedures, too.

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Why is EBP important?

EPB is an indispensable part of modern health care for several reasons, including:

Relies on science and research

EBP methods rely on well-supported scientific medicinal theories. This means healthcare providers can offer high-quality, reliable treatments to people under their care. EBP produces methods and techniques that depend on consensus agreements in the scientific community, which means they can be innovative and advance solutions based on in-depth scientific research and study.

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Allows for continual evolution of treatment

The way health care providers offer treatment constantly evolves due to scientific developments. Treatment methods derived from EBP also evolve according to scientific and technological developments. This means that patients benefit from cutting-edge therapies that the scientific community has optimised through collaborative efforts.

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Addresses patients' needs and feedback

EBP considers how patients prefer to receive treatment and factors their feedback into EBP protocols. This can empower patients, as it shows their needs are a priority and their treatment reflects this. It also allows healthcare providers to customise treatment to the requirements and preferences of individuals.

Promotes optimal treatment

EBP creates an environment of continuous improvement in the health care industry. By adopting treatments that encompass the preferences of patients and the latest scientific data, health care providers can deliver optimal solutions appropriate for treating individuals on a case-by-case basis. EBP is one of the driving forces of progress in the entire health care industry.

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Elements of EBP

There are varying levels of evidence in EBP, all of which inform new medical practices along with research, patient feedback and clinical experience. The levels act as a scoring system revealing how reliable and of what quality the research and studies are. Here are the different levels:

Level A

Level A represents the most reliable and high-quality data for most health care professionals. The strongest medical research and studies fall into this category. Here are some sources of level A evidence:

  • Randomised control trials: These are experiments with controls that involve researchers randomly selecting participants from pools of volunteers and testing hypotheses to produce unbiased results.

  • Systematic review or meta-analysis: These reviews or analyses involve researchers examining existing bodies of evidence relating to clinical questions and finding common conclusions. They may use statistics and data analysis techniques to determine outcomes.

  • Clinical practice guidelines: These represent the best evidence for most health care experts, as the industry already accepts them. Thoroughly reviewing these guidelines can offer new insights to work with.

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Level B

Level B evidence is what health care professionals view as somewhat valid but less so than level A evidence. Here are some of the activities that can produce this level of evidence:

  • Non-randomised control trials: In this type of trial, there's no guarantee that subjects are of the same demographic and clinical variables, making it uncontrolled in this respect. This detrimentally impacts the validity of studies, but they can be as valuable as randomised trials in most instances.

  • Clinical cohort studies: Clinical cohort studies involve assessing subjects with common and uncommon exposure levels to certain physical stimuli or environments to determine cause and effect.

  • Case-controlled studies: These studies involve a researcher observing volunteers with known outcomes or diseases and comparing them with subjects without known outcomes or diseases. This helps medical experts analyse the likelihood of developing certain diseases and outcomes and the variables that affect the probability of these outcomes.

Level C

Health care experts typically deem level C to be the lowest form of evidence in terms of validity among studies and research. Here are some activities that produce this kind of evidence:

  • Consensus viewpoint and expert opinion: These studies typically involve a panel of clinical experts reviewing the information and agreeing on health care practices. This is typically the preferred option when there are no qualitative or quantitative studies.

  • Meta-synthesis: This describes combining and interpreting the results of multiple inter-related qualitative studies.

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Level ML

Level ML means multilevel. Health care providers typically reserve this level for complex cases. This evidence may derive from one or more of these three levels and uses clinical practice guidelines and recommendations.

How to implement EBP

Most of the time, health care professionals can't dedicate the necessary time to producing or gathering the various levels of evidence before integrating an EBP. As a result, they follow several steps to help increase EBP protocols' effectiveness. Here are some typical steps you may find in an EBP application process:

1. Ask questions

Before applying an EBP to an existing treatment or protocol, it's important to ask questions about possible ways to improve current practices. Before exploring further options, you may contemplate how to improve certain aspects of current procedures through EBPs and why it might be the means of improvement.

2. Access and appraise evidence

After figuring out how an EBP can improve current practices, professionals can gather evidence to support their new theories. They do this by collecting information from libraries, databases and academic institutions. The latter often provides medical professionals access to published studies and archives. Professionals then analyse the assembled information and organise it into relevant categories, as this helps them test the validity of their EBP application theories.

3. Apply findings

If the evidence supports the theory that applying for a particular EBP can lead to significant improvements, you can use this to inform clinical decision-making. Practitioners can also apply this knowledge in their day-to-day clinical practice. This helps them to make effective, evidence-based recommendations.

4. Evaluate the outcomes

Following implementation, reviewing the data and measuring the success of new approaches are vital. This includes documenting any revisions to the original plan and its outcomes. It's also important to record the entire outcome of the EBP integration.

5. Share results

Sharing the results of EBP integration among health care staff can improve patient outcomes. This takes place through the exchange of innovation and improvements to current methods. Sharing may also encourage other health care professionals to make valuable contributions to future EBP integrations.

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Benefits of EBP

EBP can improve care options for patients and reduce costs. Here are some of the other benefits:

  • Prioritised patient needs: Since EBP considers patient feedback and recommendations in addition to scientific research, it can be effective and customisable to individual treatment plans. EBP allows health care professionals to upgrade medical care while constantly evaluating how patients respond.

  • Time-saving decisions: Because EBPs can eliminate practices of little or no benefit, they can save care teams time and other resources. Using their expertise, they can focus on treatments and protocols that they know are effective for specific patients.

  • Up-to-date knowledge: EBPs enable health care organisations to remain updated with the latest technologies and medical practices. This can boost the abilities and confidence of practitioners while also contributing to the wider field.

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