Evidence Based Medicine is a valuable practice for reducing variability in medical care, containing costs and improving the overall care delivered to patients.
For many medical practitioners, their experience or experience learned through others is the optimal reference point when making treatment decisions for their patients. However, reliance on this experience creates a large amount of variability in the care provided to patients. This variability leads to increased costs, inefficient medical care and may even have a negative impact on outcomes. Variation is said to occur in treatment pathways, the type and amount of testing, prescribed medications and many other areas of care delivery. This topic has been the subject of countless studies showing a huge amount of variability in medical treatments with no indication of a common method for diagnosing and treating specific conditions.
The alternative is Evidence Based Medicine (EBM). By using data from external clinical research combined with individual clinical expertise, EBM allows physicians to determine the method of treatment for the patients with greater accuracy and efficiency. Evidence Based Medicine is used across the world and can be applied to various areas of medicine. EBM allows physicians to identify and use the most effective treatment options and provide better quality and more efficient care. By providing a systematic approach and clinical guidelines for treating patients, EBM reduces physician variability, improves health outcomes and in turn lowers the cost of care. Use of EBM has also been shown to reduce complications, hospital readmissions, and inpatient hospitalizations. EBM used as preventative treatment can also cut costs and improve quality of care by providing early diagnosis for medical conditions. Patient satisfaction is also positively affected by use of EBM. Patients are more likely to feel secure in their treatment plans when informed that it has been scientifically proven to be successful, and especially when shown scientific evidence during patient consultations.
With the healthcare industry shifting to different types of payment models and healthcare payers focusing on costs, observing physician behavior to reduce variability and increase efficiencies is of increasing importance. Pinpointing areas for improvement has become easier with use of electronic medical records (EHRs) and data analysis tools that compare diagnoses, treatments and outcomes.
Today’s physicians should use both individual clinical expertise and the latest evidence based guidelines to treat patients. Individual clinical experience can be used to determine how applicable clinical guidelines are to the individual and to what level they can be used. External clinical evidence promotes clinical structure and the use of up to date medical methodologies. Combined with individual experience, EBM can achieve improved health outcomes, reduced costs, and increased patient satisfaction.