Overview of evidence-based medicine: challenges for evidence-based laboratory medicine.
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Evidence-based medicine (EBM) has been driven by the need to cope with information overload, by cost-control, and by a public impatient for the best in diagnostics and treatment. Clinical guidelines, care maps, and outcome measures are quality improvement tools for the appropriateness, efficiency, and effectiveness of health services. Although they are imperfect, their value increases with the quality of the evidence they incorporate. Laboratory professionals must direct more effort to demonstrating the impact of laboratory tests on a greater variety of clinical outcomes. Laboratory and clinical practitioners must be familiar with many of the accessible electronic and paper tools for searching for evidence. Detailed statistical and epidemiologic knowledge is not essential, but critical appraisal skills and a competent understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of systematic review and metaanalysis are necessary. Overemphasis on complexity and failure to recognize time limitations are major barriers to translating EBM into everyday practice. Emphasizing and practicing the role of the laboratory professional as a skilled clinical consultant strongly grounded in evidence as well, in addition to better integration of laboratory and clinical information and improved laboratory reports will overcome most barriers. There is a poverty of good, primary studies of test evaluations. Institution of more consistent standards for the design and reporting of studies on diagnostic accuracy should improve the situation. If nothing else, systematic reviews have demonstrated the need for more good-quality primary research in laboratory medicine.
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