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Evidence-Based Medicine: Searching & Resources: PICO

Four Elements of the Clinical Question

PICO: a mnemonic device to help formulate a clinical question and strategy by identifying key concepts
P Patient/Population/Problem Describe your patient or problem - be specific
I Intervention/Indicator What main intervention is being considered? Etiology, treatment, prognostic factor?
C Comparison/Control (if necessary) What is the main alternative to compare with the intervention?
O Outcome What is the goal of the intervention? What could be affected?



What are their important characteristics?
  • primary problem
  • state of disease/condition
  • sex
  • age
  • socioeconomic status
ALWAYS include in your search


What do you want to do for the patient?
  • Education
  • Therapy
  • Order tests/procedure
ALWAYS include in your search


What is the alternate intervention, if any?
  • Different procedure/test
  • No education
  • No medication
Sometimes include in your search


What  are you hoping to achieve, measure, or change for the patient?
  • Alleviate symptoms
  • Change test results
  • Behavior modification
  • Improve function
  • Reduce adverse effects/events
SOMETIMES include in your search

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