The Value of Evidence-based Medicine Standards

What is evidence-based medical care?

Evidence-based medicine standards involves three components: the doctor’s personal expertise, peer-reviewed published research and the patient’s preferences and values. Physicians with plenty of experience in a specific discipline, such as cancer, heart surgery or diabetes, combine the things they have learned through their own clinical experiences with recent research published in medical journals to make more accurate diagnoses and to determine what recommendations to make to their patients. How effective different treatments are compared to each other is usually the first consideration. When multiple effective treatments are available, the doctor might narrow down the choices by considering costs or potential complications. The patient’s preferences also come into play, and a doctor who has a thorough understanding of the different treatments can give a patient information about things like side effects, projected outcomes and further testing options. Doctors and health care facilities using evidence-based medicine typically develop comprehensive standards so that every physician in the office or hospital follows a similar protocol when faced with the same diseases or disorders.

How evidence-based medical care affects patients

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While doctors like evidence-based medical care because it helps them more easily choose between treatment options, they also enjoy the fact that it helps improve patient outcomes for a wide range of conditions and health issues. Because evidence-based medicine includes consideration of the patients’ wishes, patients feel like they are part of the decision-making process and tend to be more satisfied with this kind of care. Patients also now have the ability to do their own research on the Internet, and the transparent nature of evidence-based care helps make patients feel comfortable about their diagnoses and treatment choices.

Evidence-based medicine standards and health care costs

Effective treatments are even better when they cost less than less-promising treatments would. Evidence-based medicine standards help doctors, patients and hospitals control costs because when a therapy or medicine works right the first time, there’s no need to continue on performing more expensive tests or blindly switching between different treatments before finding one that works. In many cases, less expensive medicines are just as effective as more expensive drugs. By evaluating the evidence beforehand, a doctor can realistically compare the success rates of different drugs and recommend the one that offers the most benefit for the lowest cost. Another way that evidence-based medicine standards help lower costs is by reducing the rate of complications and side effects, which reduces the risk of a return visit to the hospital once the patient is released. In one 2010 study, researchers found that an evidence-based approach reduced the cost of treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer by up to 35 percent compared to standard treatment.

How doctors integrate evidence-based practices into health care

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Health care facilities and independent physicians integrate evidence-based standards into their practices in a variety of ways. Doctors can keep up with recent research using medical databases specifically designed to collect published research on specific medical specialties. Since the sheer volume of published research is too large for any single doctor to keep up with, many evidence-based doctors spend time researching specific clinical questions instead of trying to learn everything. Physicians also attend research conferences and medical education programs to find out about new discoveries, therapies, diagnostic tools and treatments. Web-based applications and computer-based medical records help doctors access the information they need just before or during an appointment. Because evidence-based medicine standards are constantly evolving, doctors using these kinds of standards need to be willing to change their approach when new data comes to light.

As computer-based technologies become more incorporated into medical care, evidence-based standards become increasingly important. Better access to medical knowledge and information helps everyone involved in health care make better choices, and these data-based decisions ensure that patients get the best possible care.