PICO Method

What does PICO mean?

The first stage of any evidence-based practice process is formulating an answerable question. 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:
P (patient/population/problem) I (intervention/indicator) C (comparison/control) O (Outcome)

P – Populations/People/Patient/Problem
What are their most important characteristics?

  • primary problem
  • disease state
  • co-existing condition

Describe your patient specifically:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic factors

ALWAYS include this piece in your search.

I – Intervention(s)

What do you want to do for the patient?

  • Order a test
  • Prescribe a drug
  • Order a procedure

Other considerations:

  • Main intervention
  • Prognostic factors
  • Exposures

Almost always include this piece in your search.

C – Comparison

What is the alternate intervention, if any?

  • A different drug
  • No medication
  • A Placebo
  • A different test
  • A different procedure

It is less common to include this piece in a search.

O – Outcome

What are you hoping to achieve, measure, or change for the patient?

  • Alleviate symptoms
  • Improve test results
  • Reduce adverse events
  • Improve function

Could also be the result NOT desired.
Sometimes include this piece in your search.

 

Examples:

Sources:
Purdue University Libraries, Evidence-Based Practice
LibGuide
UT Health San Antonio Library, Speech-Language Pathology LibGuide

Evidence-Based Practice Tutorials and Resources

How to Find Evidence-Based Resources

Evidence-Based Practice Tools

Pyramid modified from: Navigating the Maze, University of Virginia, Health Sciences Library 
Source: Health Sciences Library, University of Washington

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