To describe the obstacles encountered when attempting to answer doctors' questions with evidence.
General practices in Iowa.
9 academic generalist doctors, 14 family doctors, and 2 medical librarians.
Main outcome measure
A taxonomy of obstacles encountered while searching for evidence based answers to doctors' questions.
59 obstacles were encountered and organised according to the five steps in asking and answering questions: recognise a gap in knowledge, formulate a question, search for relevant information, formulate an answer, and use the answer to direct patient care. Six obstacles were considered particularly salient by the investigators and practising doctors: the excessive time required to find information; difficulty modifying the original question, which was often vague and open to interpretation; difficulty selecting an optimal strategy to search for information; failure of a seemingly appropriate resource to cover the topic; uncertainty about how to know when all the relevant evidence has been found so that the search can stop; and inadequate synthesis of multiple bits of evidence into a clinically useful statement.
Many obstacles are encountered when asking and answering questions about how to care for patients. Addressing these obstacles could lead to better patient care by improving clinically oriented information resources.
What is already known on this topicDoctors are encouraged to search for evidence based answers to their questions about patient care but most go unansweredStudies have not defined the obstacles to answering questions in a systematic mannerA comprehensive description of such obstacles has not been presentedWhat this study addsFifty nine obstacles were found while attempting to answer clinical questions with evidence; six were particularly salientThe obstacles were comprehensively described and organised