To give the best care to patients and families, paediatricians need to integrate the highest quality scientific evidence with clinical expertise and the opinions of the family.1Archimedes seeks to assist practising clinicians by providing “evidence‐based” answers to common questions that are not at the forefront of research but are at the core of practice. In doing this, we are adapting a format that has been successfully developed by Kevin Mackway‐Jones and the group at the Emergency Medicine Journal—“BestBets”.
A word of warning. The topic summaries are not systematic reviews, although they are as exhaustive as a practising clinician can produce. They make no attempt to statistically aggregate the data, nor to search the grey, unpublished literature. What Archimedes offers is practical, best evidence‐based answers to practical, clinical questions.
The format of Archimedes may be familiar. A description of the clinical setting is followed by a structured clinical question. (These aid in focusing the mind, assisting searching2 and obtaining answers.3) A brief report of the search used follows—this has been performed in a hierarchical way, to search for the best quality evidence to answer the question (http://www.cebm.net). A table provides a summary of the evidence and key points of the critical appraisal. For further information on critical appraisal, and the measures of effect (such as the number needed to treat), books by Sackett4 and Moyer5 may help. To pull the information together, a commentary is provided, but to make it all much more accessible, a box provides the clinical bottom lines.
Electronics‐only topics that have been published on the BestBets site (www.bestbets.org) and may be of interest to paediatricians include the following.
Can steroids be used to reduce post tonsillectomy pain?
Readers wishing to submit their own questions—with best evidence answers—are encouraged to review those already proposed at www.bestbets.org. If your question still hasn't been answered, feel free to submit your summary according to the instructions for authors at www.archdischild.com. Three topics are covered in this issue of the journal:
Is teething the cause of minor ailments?
Should steroid creams be used in cases of labial fusion?
Does erythromycin cause pyloric stenosis?
1 Moyer VA, Ellior EJ. Preface. In: Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health. Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
2 Richardson WS, Wilson MC, Nishikawa J, et al. The well‐built clinical question: a key to evidence‐based decisions. ACP J Club 1995;123:A12–13.
3 Bergus GR, Randall CS, Sinift SD, et al. Does the structure of clinical questions affect the outcome of curbside consultations with specialty colleagues? Arch Fam Med 2000;9:541–7.
4 Sackett DL, Starus S, Richardson WS, et al. Evidence‐based medicine. How to practice and teach EBM. San Diego: Harcourt‐Brace, 2000.
5 Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health. Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
Can: doing, using and replicating evidence‐based child health
The practice of evidence‐based child health is said to be the five‐step way of asking questions, acquiring information, appraising the evidence, applying the results and assessing our performance.
If the truth be known, for the vast majority of the time, most of us perform our clinical practice replicating what we have done previously. Most of the time this is based on the combination of excellent education, skilled interpretation of clinical findings, and good discussions with children and families. We hope that the education we rely on was (and remains) based on the best available scientific evidence. If it is, we are practising a form of “micro‐evidence‐based healthcare (EBHC)” (doing just step 4).
Sometimes, we question our knowledge (or more uncomfortably, someone does this for us), and will head off to top up our understanding of an area. This “using” mode, if we use well‐appraised resources to supply our thirst for information, will also promote the practice of evidence‐based care. This midi‐EBHC asks us to go through steps 1, 2 and 4.
Occasionally, we also actually need to go through the entire process of getting “down and dirty” with the primary research and appraising it to influence our practice. Maxi‐EBHC is considerably more demanding in time, but largely more satisfying intellectually.
If we reframe the practice of EBHC as using the family and child values, the best evidence, and our clinical expertise, then we can do it by micro‐methods, midi‐methods or maxi‐methods, and choose the most appropriate approach for the situation we confront.
I thank Dr Sharon Straus, Director of the Center for Evidence‐based Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.