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Evidence-Based Clinical Practice: PICO

Overview

PICO is a method for extracting the key concepts from a clinical question.

Resources for PICO

The PICO Strategy

PICO stands for: Patient/Problem, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome. When considering a clinical problem, use PICO to analyze the most important concepts to research.

 

P

Patient or Problem: Demographic characteristics of the patient such as age, sex; condition or other factor, such as: congestive heart failure, hypoglycemic, smoker, obese

I

Intervention: Treatment, prognostic factor, exposure, such as a drug, test, surgery, adjustment

C

Comparison: Are you trying to decide between two treatments/drugs/procedures, etc.? (optional/placebo/”sham”)

O

Outcome: What is desired for the patient?

 

Example: A woman asks if giving her 8-year old son Vitamin C or echinacea will prevent him from getting chronic sinus infections.

P

sinus infection, chronic; child

I

vitamin C

C

echinacea

O

Lessening/diminishing of sinus infections

When searching the medical literature, the key terms will be: sinus infection, child, vitamin C, and echinacea.

Not all parts of PICO will apply to every clinical question. For example, if the mother only asked about vitamin C, then there would be no comparison term. Or, one can assume that the comparison is a placebo, for example, in a controlled trial.