Evidence-based medicine is the cornerstone of modern conventional medicine. At our practices, we will always endeavour to practice evidence-based medicine wherever possible. But what exactly does ‘evidence-based’ mean? And why is it so important? This article will discuss the concept of ‘evidence-based’ medicine and how to ensure that you are getting the best treatment.
What is Evidence-Based Medicine?
Evidence-Based Medicine refers to the practice of medicine which is supported by the use of the best and most up-to-date evidence available. This evidence is usually sourced from extensive research being performed every day from the health outcomes of patients with diseases or conditions which are similar to the one you may have. The doctor must use this evidence to ensure not only that the treatment he wants to provide to you will work, but that it will work better than any other treatment they could provide to you.
Why is Evidence-Based Medicine important?
Doctors need to make decisions regarding a patient’s healthcare all the time. Often however, the body is unpredictable and so making decisions can be difficult. Using the evidence from previous patients in situations similar to your own will help the doctor choose which treatment is most likely to be the most effective for you and result in the best outcome for your health.
How do I know if a treatment is evidence-based?
Often you will find information on the internet or from alternative health providers saying that their treatments are supported by studies or research. It is important that you ask further questions about this to ensure it truly is evidence-based. Some questions you can ask are:
What kind of study was it? – Not all studies can be trusted to be truly unbiased. The best quality research is a randomised-controlled trial, where one half of the participants are given the treatment being tested, and the other half receive the standard treatment, to assess which has better results.
Does the research suggest that this is the best treatment available? – Just because a treatment is found to be better than nothing, does not mean that it is the best available treatment. Often information for this can be found with meta-analyses, where many randomised-controlled trials are assessed and the results compared between each other.
Is the research peer-reviewed? – The peer-review process involves the research being read by many other impartial experts in that particular field before being published. This is important as these experts can assess whether the research has been performed to a high-standard.
Be careful of the following statements, as these do not constitute ‘evidence-based’ treatments:
“this worked really well for my aunty when she had breast cancer” – anecdotal evidence based on one or a few cases is not evidence-based, remember that diseases can be very variable between individuals and just because something worked for one person, does not mean that it will work for you.
“Doing it the natural way is always better” – while most doctors would agree that it is important to live as naturally as possible, there are times where evidence suggests that the ‘natural way’ is not the most effective way to treat a particular disease and in fact could put your health in jeopardy.
“This was used for digestion in Ancient Indian times” – this is not a randomised controlled trial, and just because a treatment is old does not mean it is best!
As doctors, we are interested in providing the best care for you aimed at improving your quality of life. It is important to remember however, that personal patient preferences are also important and we will respect these in our shared decision-making.
HealthCatalyst 2018, 5 Reasons the Practice of Evidence-Based Medicine is a Hot Topic [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.healthcatalyst.com/5-reasons-practice-evidence-based-medicine-is-hot-topic (Accessed 4 June 2018)
Students for Best Evidence 2018, What is Evidence-Based Medicine? [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.students4bestevidence.net/start-here/what-is-evidence-based-medicine/