Using informatics principles and tools to harness research evidence for patient care: evidence-based informatics.
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With the huge worldwide investment in biomedical research during the past 50 years, there are many important advances in health care knowledge each year. Unfortunately, it commonly takes over 20 years for even the most important of these advances to be widely integrated into clinical practice. Many potentially remediable factors are responsible for this dilemma in research transfer, including defective continuing education for health professionals and patients; increasingly complex medical regimens; diminishing resources for health care; and inadequate evidence management. The principles and procedures of health informatics can help overcome some of these barriers to research transfer, particularly such evidence management tasks as retrieving, processing, summarizing, disseminating and applying evidence for clinical care. Evidence retrieval has been improved by better indexing and electronic search engines, by improved access from clinical and other settings, and by integration of evidence into clinical decision support systems. Evidence processing has been greatly accelerated by streamlined methods of critical appraisal of research and by centralization of these procedures for the development of current awareness publications and cumulative "best evidence" databases. The Cochrane Collaboration has revolutionized the summarization (systematic review) of evidence. The internet has provided access to patients, practitioners, and policy makers, alike. Direct-from-patient automated data collection promises to move the connection between evidence and practice to a higher level. In all of these innovations, health care practice is most likely to be enhanced by intertwining best evidence with best informatics techniques.
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