What Do You Really Mean by Evidence-Based Care?
Evidence-based care in healthcare involves the process of researching and collecting evidence and then evaluating and implementing the findings to improve patient care and outcomes. Healthcare professionals constantly require to question and justify their actions and decisions so that they can give their patients a clear rationale about healthcare choices possible, and provide the most effective care possible. Evidence-based practice (EBP) ensures that clinicians demonstrate an understanding of the evidence for the decisions they make.
There are several compelling reasons for adopting an evidence-based approach in today’s healthcare environment because this approach allows healthcare professionals to improve quality, patient satisfaction, and reduce treatment costs. Let us consider the example of patients with specific conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, or heart failure. With EBP, healthcare providers can evaluate the positive outcomes and risks of performing certain diagnostic tests or adopting certain treatment paths for each patient. This assessment, coupled with the clinician’s experience, enables the clinicians to decide if a certain treatment path will benefit the patient or not. It also helps the healthcare organization to work on a systematic approach providing better patient care by bridging gaps in patient care for better outcomes and a healthier population. Further, it offers a good opportunity for healthcare workers to expand their roles and transform patient care.
Evidence-based medicine includes research-based evidence, clinical expertise, and patient’s values and preferences. Practicing evidence-based medicine is useful because it not only involves using evidence to design treatment plans but also encourages dialogue between patients and clinicians so that patients can make their preferences known in the process of making decisions. This gives a chance for providers to take into consideration the patients’ concerns and come up with a treatment plan.
There are several ways in which EBP (Evidence-Based Practice) adds value to healthcare systems. Some of these are discussed in the following paragraphs:
#1: Enhances the quality of service
EBP helps clinicians to stay updated on standardized and evidence-based protocols. It enhances the quality of service delivery because practitioners can draw upon a variety of options. For patients, it reduces the amount of time wasted on inappropriate care options.
#2. Enhances the confidence of medical practitioners and patients
EBP helps improve the personal and professional confidence, and decision-making skills of practitioners because they adopt a critical approach and the results are reflected in enhanced care outcomes. It brings about improved consistency as all patients receive the same level of care. For patients, it results in increased confidence in practitioners as their knowledge of options is transparent.
#3. Brings better outcomes
When the quality of care improves through patient satisfaction and positive healthcare outcomes, it results in reduced complaints and litigations.
#4. Improves transparency, accountability, and value
Practicing evidence-based healthcare can help all the players in the healthcare industry, viz. payers, providers, and patients to achieve transparency, accountability, and high quality of care at reduced costs.
#5: Helps practitioners make better-informed healthcare decisions
Electronic medical records (EMRs), decision support systems, built-in protocols, data warehouses, and sophisticated analytics provide healthcare staff with more reliable and near-real-time access to data. Healthcare staff can use EBP to reduce the uncertainty in the decision-making process and provide better patient care based on near real-time data.
To adopt an evidence-based practice model requires some effort in the initial stages but busy practitioners can incorporate evidence-based medicine into their practices by following these five steps.
Step 1: Ask a clinical question to identify a key problem.
The first step involves in asking the correct questions to identify the major problem that most healthcare organizations are facing in their practice. It is a good idea to form a team of practitioners whose role is to ask relevant questions, which could be related to improving throughput and reducing readmission. It is important to identify a high-priority problem that offers a significant return on investment.
Step 2: Acquire the best medical knowledge possible.
Practitioners should take information from the high-quality evidence that provides the best insight for patient care; preferably from the evidence that underwent a systematic review process and meta-analysis instead of relying on evidence which is based on opinions and small sample sizes, which increases room for error. Practitioners should ask several questions when appraising the evidence, which revolves around improving decision-making, improving outcomes, improving clinical quality or patient safety, improving efficiency and services, and empowering patients and families to improve their health.
Step 3: Assess the evidence to make sure it is applicable to the target population
The team of expert practitioners should review the information received and assess its validity, accuracy, and usefulness for the situation or population being considered.
Step 4: Apply the evidence to daily practice.
If the team of doctors feels that the evidence is useful to others, then they can incorporate the new knowledge into their daily clinical practice. It is very important to remember that the new information is not meant to replace a clinician’s expertise or judgment; rather, it should enhance their ability to make better care decisions based on the needs and preferences of the patient. It is good to share all the learnings of EBP with other practitioners so that other health care givers can also benefit from the knowledge and build EBP into their current flow of work.
Step 5: Assess your performance.
Lastly, establish a baseline performance benchmark and then assess your performance to see if the EBP has brought any improvements to your practice. This is an ongoing process—and you must keep refining your practice to ensure the best outcomes.
The Future of Evidence-Based Practice
With value-based services becoming very popular in recent years, there is an increasing need for practitioners to have access to the best possible evidence to make the better decisions and achieve optimal outcomes. Thus, evidence-based practice finds its usefulness in the future of healthcare. This is definitely an era for transformation for healthcare because, with EBP, practices will be standardized resulting in more predictable outcomes, doctors and patients will feel confident about the treatment paths, treatment costs will also decrease, and avoidable readmissions can be avoided.
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