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What is Evidence-Based Medicine and Why Should I Care?

Posted on 2nd May 2014 by

Tutorials and Fundamentals
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Key message:

Evidence-Based Medicine in a nutshell from first principles to medical statistics in the course of one free article. You can read the article in full for free here.

Who is the article for?

This article by Dr Dean Hess was originally published in the journal ‘Respiratory Care’ in 2004. Hess assumes very little prior knowledge, starting by defining the basic principles of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) and building form there one step at a time. It is full of clinical examples of how EBM can be put into practice. This article is particularly helpful for students of healthcare professions, for whom the clinical examples are most relevant, but could be understood by an educated lay audience.

I am very busy, how long will it take me to read?

The article is nine fact-packed pages. It took me about 15 minutes to read (and I am a slow reader) and you’ll struggle to find a textbook as concise and which builds to a high level so rapidly. Plus it’s freely available online.

What does it cover?

  • What is Evidence-Based Medicine?
  • What is the importance of Evidence-Based Medicine? (There are plenty of clinical examples here)
  • The hierarchy of evidence, including more detailed sections on systematic reviews, meta-analyses and guidelines.
  • Searching for evidence, with links to where to start when looking for primary evidence.
  • A little bit about trial design, with features of good trial design (prospective, randomization, blinding, controls etc) defined and explained.
  • How to evaluate a diagnostic test including definitions and guides to the practical and clinical interpretation of sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios, Receiver Operator Characteristics (ROC) and nomograms. The section is great for medical undergraduates.
  • How to evaluate a therapy including definitions and guides to the practical and clinical interpretation of event rate, relative risk, relative risk reduction, absolute risk reduction, number needed to treat, odds ratios and confidence intervals. The section too is great for medical undergraduates.


This is a free, practical, clinically useful summary of EBM which takes you from first principles to interpreting medical statistics in 15 minutes.


You can read the article in full for free here.

Hess DR. What is evidence-based medicine and why should I care? Respir Care. 2004;49(7):730-41.


Sean Davidson

I'm a medical student at Newcastle University interested in neurology, psychiatry and all things 'medically unexplained'. View more posts from Sean

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