The first stage of any evidence-based practice process is formulating an answerable question. Evidence Based Practice is a process and the PICO question plays an important role in that process. This forms the foundation for quality searching. A well-formulated question will facilitate the search for evidence and will assist you in determining whether the evidence is relevant to your question.
An answerable question has a format that follows the PICO concept. The acronym translates to:
- Helps you form a focused question that will return relevant results
- Helps you retrieve a manageable amount of results
- Assists you in brainstorming keywords for your research
- Saves time!
- In academia when you are looking for evidence to support best practice
- When you have a question about patient care
P = Patient/Problem
Description of the patient - what are the most important characteristics? Is gender, age, or ethnicity relevant to the diagnosis or treatment of the problem?
What is the primary problem, disease, or co-existing condition?
I = Intervention
What do you want to do for the patient?
What main intervention, prognostic factor, or exposure are you considering?
C = Comparison
Are there standard or alternative treatments to compare with the planned intervention?
Keep in mind that not all clinical questions will have a comparison.
O = Outcome
What do you hope to accomplish, measure, improve, or affect?