The PICO Method
What is the PICO method?
PICO is a method of putting together a search strategy that allows you to take a more evidence based approach to your literature searching when you are searching bibliographic databases like Medline (OVID), PubMed and Embase.
PICO stands for:
Patient/Population Who or What?
Comparison What is the main alternative? (If appropriate)
Outcome What are you trying to accomplish, measure, improve, effect?
So how does it work in practice?
A preganant woman with type 2 diabetes is concerned about the effect her current treatment may have on her pregnancy and unborn child.
The GP has heard that insulin pump therapy may be a more succesful treatment than conventional insulin therapy.
However, the GP wants to get his facts right, so searches the literature. The question he wants to answer is:
Are insulin pumps more effective than conventional therapies in managing type 2 diabetes in pregnant women?
A PICO search strategy would look like this:
Patient/Population Pregnant women with type 2 diabetes
Intervention Insulin pump therapy
Comparison Conventional insulin therapy
Outcome Improved management of glucose levels
Note: you may have two aspects to your patient / population concept.
However, you may also want to broaden your search by thinking about synonyms and other keywords that you could use to make sure that you do not miss any important research. An extended PICO search strategy might look like this:
Pregnant women and type 2 diabetes
|Insulin pump therapy||Conventional insulin therapy||Improved managemnet of glucose levels|
|Synonym||Pregnancy and diabetes||Insulin infusion systems||Insulin injections||Successful pregnancy|
|Synonym||Implantable infusion pumps|
When implementing the search, enter the search terms in the PICO order. It is likely that you will not need to enter all of the PICO strategy. You may find that you only need to search for the patient and the intervention.
Test yourself on PICO!