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Evidence-based practice for effective decision-making in healthcare

Evidence-based practice for effective decision-making in healthcare 1

Evidence-based practice is all about making informed, better decisions for the desired impact. There are many benefits of adopting evidence-based practice for decision-making in healthcare. The practice is based on using the best evidence available and critical thinking. Using this approach helps decision-makers rely less on sources that may not be as trustworthy such as personal experience, received wisdom, and anecdotes. In healthcare, it is crucial for decision-makers to use this approach because management decisions have a huge impact on the well-being and lives of a large number of people.

For evidence-based practice to be effective, it is important to understand which sources of evidence are reliable for effective decision-making. Professionals must also know how to combine these sources the right way to ensure success. There are also several misconceptions about an evidence-based practice that need to be evaluated to understand how healthcare organizations can implement this strategy in practical, real-life scenarios.

Understanding evidence-based practice 

Effective decision-making requires decision-makers to use the best available evidence and use critical thinking. With evidence-based practice, it is possible to make decisions and take actions that will have the right impact and desired effect. Knowing which sources of evidence are trustworthy and which ones are not, is equally important. For those who are interested in working as a decision-maker in healthcare, it is important to understand the challenges posed by unreliable and biased management decisions. It is quite common for decision-makers to rely on personal experience when making decisions. This is highly susceptible to bias and errors. It is important to prioritize critically appraised, sound evidence instead. At every level in healthcare, employees have the moral obligation to make important decisions based on the best available evidence.

In healthcare, as the claims and opinions of the masses continue to grow, it becomes even more important to assess the validity and reliability of evidence. People have limited time and resources on hand, so they use mental shortcuts to make decisions easier. This can make professionals susceptible to bias. Decision-makers tend to judge how likely an event is based on readily available memories according to “availability heuristics”. Often, professionals tend to form early opinions about others and about probable events without assessing the overall picture.

Bias is also created by best practice notions and through received wisdom. Healthcare organizations may look up to other organizations for examples of sound decision-making and practice, without critical evaluation of their actions and effectiveness. While scientific literature is available in virtually every field of healthcare, practitioners are often not aware of the research available to base their decisions on. Even when studying research, it is possible to be naturally biased. Human beings are prone to cherry-picking research that matches their personal opinion or perspective. Often, practitioners tend to ignore research that does not match their preconceived notions even when there is stronger evidence in favor of it. This tendency is hard to avoid and is quite common. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have an established approach that helps decision-makers determine which evidence and research to trust when making decisions. The importance of an evidence-based approach is crucial in decision-making and healthcare professionals must become savvy research consumers.

The sources of evidence 

Evidence is defined as data, facts, or information contradicting or supporting an assumption, hypothesis, or claim, according to the Center for Evidence-Based Management. There are several disadvantages to making decisions based on received wisdom and personal experience. To make sound decisions that benefit the entire healthcare organization it is also important to consider good sources of evidence. There are four key evidence sources that all decision-makers should consider:

  • Academic journals and scientific literature are readily available today. Managers should search for relevant and trustworthy research and use them when faced with difficult decisions.
  • Organizational data is also a good source of evidence because it can highlight issues and challenges that require attention. Organizational data can be sourced internally through employees by asking them to participate in surveys. This data can also come from healthcare customers and stakeholders. Comparing hard evidence and soft evidence through data on productivity levels, leadership attitudes, and productivity levels is crucial. This information can help managers spot issues, determine the causes of these issues, and find solutions to these problems.
  • Healthcare managers and practitioners must also use their judgment, experience, and expertise to ensure sound decision-making. Professional knowledge is not the same as personal opinion since it is accumulated over time through experience and reflection. Repeated experience helps professionals acquire specialized knowledge.
  • Internal and external stakeholders can be affected by the decisions made by a healthcare organization and the consequences that follow those decisions. The values and thoughts of these stakeholders show what is important to them and how they may respond to these decisions. Gathering information about the concerns of these stakeholders is important because it allows decision-makers to analyze evidence.

Combining evidence 

In evidence-based practice, it is important to not just collect evidence from the right sources, but also to collate it effectively. When you pursue an accelerated bsn online degree from Elmhurst University, you will learn advanced skills that will help you make sound evidence-based decisions. One of the ways you can make sound decisions is by collating evidence through these methods:

  • Asking- translating a problem or practical issue into a question that can be answered.
  • Acquiring- systematically looking for and acquiring evidence.
  • Appraising- evaluating the relevance and trustworthiness of evidence.
  • Aggregating- analyzing and putting the evidence together.
  • Applying- using the collected evidence for making decisions.
  • Assessing- analyzing the effectiveness of the decision.

By following these steps, healthcare professionals can ensure that they search for good sources of evidence and evaluate its trustworthiness before using it to make decisions. When analyzing the trustworthiness of evidence, it is important to think about how and where the evidence was collected from, if it is the best source available, if there is enough information available, and if it is biased in any way.

Misconceptions in evidence-based practice 

While there are many benefits of adopting evidence-based practice, its uptake is not always high in healthcare organizations due to barriers and misconceptions. Many practitioners believe that evidence-based practice does not take into consideration the professional experience of a practitioner. However, this is not true. In evidence-based practice, sources of evidence are not prioritized. It is important to accumulate evidence from different reliable and relevant sources. Many also believe that this practice is only about statistics and numbers. Although evidence-based practice acknowledges the importance of statistical and critical thinking, it is not exclusively about making decisions based on numbers.

A lot of healthcare practitioners and managers also believe that decisions have to be made quickly in healthcare. While healthcare is quite fast-paced, quick decisions also need trustworthy and robust evidence. It is also important to understand that while every healthcare organization is unique in nature, they tend to face the same issues so scientific literature is applicable to all of them. Barriers to evidence-based practice exist in organizational and academic spheres. Healthcare students are often taught theories, but they must also be thought how to question the quality of evidence and think critically. In healthcare organizations, managers may stick with the current processes and status quo even though they may be ineffective. To meet the changing needs of healthcare, it is important to break those barriers.

Effectiveness of evidence-based practice 

When compared to decision-making processes which are not structured or are based on personal experience, evidence-based practice is more effective. When assessing risk, for example, the accumulated experience of multiple people tends to be more accurate compared to the experience of a single person. Decisions based on statistics and hard data are also more accurate than simply based on personal experience. Expert opinions, even though highly sought, are not as accurate as scientific literature. Rather than relying on a single source of information, combining evidence from multiple sources of critically evaluated data provides more effective results. All of these points showcase the importance of questioning sources of evidence to ensure their trustworthiness.

Implementing evidence-based practice 

While there is a lot of information readily available on what evidence-based practice is and why it is important, it is also important to focus on the implementation of this practice. In the last few years, an increasing number of healthcare organizations have started to focus on adopting the evidence-based practice. Many of these organizations are training their practitioners on the practical knowledge and principles of this practice to make sound decisions. Healthcare organizations can start by taking a deeper look into the future of their work and what it means for themselves and their employees. Doing this can help prepare employers and professionals for the future. It will also equip them with the tools they need to succeed and shape the future of the organization.

Many healthcare organizations define the values, behaviors, and knowledge that should form the foundation of practitioners. This can form a benchmark and a standard against which practice can be measured. The core concepts to focus on are evidence-based, outcomes-driven, and principles-led. This highlights the importance of using the four types of evidence discussed above in the best possible way to generate the best outcomes. Not all evidence is the same as quality differs between each. It is important for healthcare professionals to think about ways they can evaluate the evidence and incorporate it into their decision-making process.

Evidence-based practice is a helpful concept for understanding whether current practices lead to the outcomes desired and if these practices are currently used in the best possible manner.

Challenges in the implementation of evidence-based practice 

While many specialists and decision-makers in healthcare view evidence-based practice in a favorable way, it is also easy to see that there are many barriers to implementing it. There may not always be a clear understanding of how to translate evidence into real-world practice. From sports and business to healthcare, different fields need good quality, reliable research to depend on. This research also needs to be disseminated properly and implemented effectively within the healthcare organization to lead to practical, real improvements. When doing so, there are a number of problems that may cause barriers.

One of the biggest problems faced by many organizations and healthcare practitioners is access to the necessary resources. Developing an evidence-based practice and implementing it successfully requires access to resources. This can be time-consuming and quite difficult. In many instances, professionals can rely simply on websites and textbooks for evidence and information. In specialized practice areas, professionals may need access to databases of specialist research and online journals. Access to such resources is often limited. Specialist knowledge needed for sound decision-making may often require considerable investment into quality resource access in organizations. Professionals may also need the training to develop the required skills to translate this information into useful material. Improving the knowledge of employees on how to use resources that are freely available online is an easy step to start with.

Another important barrier to the implementation of evidence-based practice is time constraints. In healthcare education, for example, instructors and teachers often indicate that they are incredibly busy and do not have the time needed to pursue research and implement best practices. Workplaces are ever-demanding and specialists in many fields today have to juggle multiple duties. This leads to time constraints. Searching for evidence, obtaining it, and translating it into practical terms requires a lot of time. This is the major barrier to starting evidence-based practice and implementing it in healthcare professions.

In many organizations, there may be a lack of support at the managerial and organizational levels. Employees and managers may not have the time or support needed to study the research required to implement evidence-based practice effectively. Introducing administrative support within the organization can be a great first step to overcoming this barrier. Organizations must carefully consider their priorities and think about the transformational benefits that evidence-based practice can bring. Using specialist researchers and translators can also be helpful in such situations.

Perhaps one of the most important barriers when it comes to implementing evidence-based practice is a lack of understanding and knowledge. Many healthcare organizations and practitioners are simply unaware of the latest scientific evidence available or the new developments in the industry. These new developments may have the potential to completely revolutionize their thinking, approach, and outcomes. Many specialists may not even have the basic skills needed to analyze the applicability, trustworthiness, and value of research. Introducing training and educational workshops within the organization can be an effective way to help professionals understand the importance of evidence-based practice and how to integrate it into their everyday work. External experts can be invited for leading training sessions to benefit the employees. Building understanding and knowledge about evidence-based practice and how to use it can provide healthcare professionals the confidence they need to go beyond their current practice and use high-quality research to make decisions.

Practical considerations

While many professionals believe that evidence-based practice is theoretical, it focuses on many practical points such as understanding what evidence is available for making decisions and shaping their procedures, policies, and work practices. In healthcare organizations, it may appear that current work practices are working but there may be many undiscovered consequences and side effects that may be discovered through evidence-based practice. In healthcare organizations, evidence-based practice allows clinicians and physicians to assess the available guidelines and research from trusted sources on clinical procedures so they can be applied to daily practice.

When considered from the view of an organization, evidence-based practice is a set of effective processes through which leaders, managers, and practitioners can assess guidelines, research, decisions, working practices, procedures, and policies from trusted research so they can be applied to daily practice. Focusing on the practical is very important and it is important for groups and individuals in organizations to be motivated enough to implement these changes. It is also important for everyone in the organization to view the evidence-based practice as important, valuable, and useful. Many practitioners may feel that the current way of doing things works well and there may be some resistance when it comes to adopting and using evidence-based practice. In such cases, it may be necessary to change the culture of the workplace to help introduce evidence-based practice successfully.

To convince everyone on the team to switch to this new way of doing things, it is important to have robust, rigorous, and reliable evidence that evidence-based interventions work in similar organizations and that they will be equally helpful in their organization. Over the years it has been clearly shown that evidence-based practice can lead to better outcomes, working practices, profits, and efficiency.

Highlighting these benefits can quickly lead to a favorable, positive consensus to consider engaging with these new practices. Instead of training managers and practitioners into researchers, the focus should still remain on everyday practice. This will make it more likely that everyone in the organization will be able to understand the value of evidence-based practice, accept it, and engage with it.

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