PICOT is an acronym to help you formulate a clinical question and guide your search for evidence. Using this format can help you find the best evidence available in a quicker, more efficient manner. The PICOT question format is a consistent “formula” for developing answerable, researchable questions. When you write a good one, it makes the rest of the process of finding and evaluating evidence much more straightforward.
P: Population/patient – age, gender, ethnicity, individuals with a certain disorder
I: Intervention/indicator (Variable of Interest) – exposure to a disease, risk behavior, prognostic factor
C: Comparison/control – could be a placebo or “business as usual” as in no disease, absence of risk factor, Prognostic factor B
O: Outcome – risk of disease, accuracy of a diagnosis, rate of occurrence of adverse outcome
T: Time – the time it takes for the intervention to achieve an outcome or how long participants are observed
Note: Not every question will have an intervention (as in a meaning question) or time (when it is implied in another part of the question) component.
Population: Bariatric adolescents considering or undergoing gastric bypass surgery.
Intervention: The nurse’s role as a primary member of the multidisciplinary team regarding perioperative care of the bariatric adolescent patient.
Comparison: The nurse’s role as a secondary member of the multidisciplinary team without any specialized training and is only involved in perioperative care of the bariatric adolescent patient.
Outcome: When the nurse is involved as one of the primary members in the multidisciplinary team approach, the bariatric adolescent patient has better continuity of care.
Time: perioperative including the 6 weeks post recovery.
PICOT Question: Does the bariatric adolescent patient undergoing gastric bypass have better continuity of care perioperatively and postoperatively when the nurse is a primary member of the multidisciplinary team versus when the nurse is a secondary member whose only role is in providing perioperative care and has no specialized training?
Intervention PICOT Question Examples, an Intervention example:
In adult patients with total hip replacements (Patient population) how effective is PCA pain medication (Intervention of interest) compared to prn IM pain medication (Comparison intervention) in controlling post operative pain (Outcome) during the perioperative and recovery time? Note: The IM pain medication would be called the control group. It would be unethical to have a control group that received NO pain medication. Many times the control group means they get “business as usual!” or the current standard of care.
Therapy PICOT Question Examples, a non-intervention example:
What is the duration of recovery (O) for patients with total hip replacement (P) who developed a post-operative infection (I) as opposed to those who did not (C) within the first six weeks of recovery (T)?
Etiology PICOT Question Examples:
Are kids (P) who have obese adoptive parents (I) at Increased risk for obesity (O) compared with kids (P) without obese adoptive parents (C) during the ages of five and 18 (T)?
Diagnostic PICOT Question Examples:
Is a PKU test (I) done on two week old infants (P) more accurate in diagnosis inborn errors in metabolism (O) compared with PKU tests done at 24 hours of age (C)? Time is implied in two weeks and 24 hours old.
Prevention PICOT Question Examples:
In OR nurses doing a five minute scrub (P) what are the differences in the presence and types of microbes (O) found on natural polished nails and nail beds (I) and artificial nails (C) at the time of surgery (T)?
Prognosis/Prediction PICOT Question Examples:
Does telemonitoring blood pressure (I) in urban African Americans with hypertension (P) improve blood pressure control (O) within the six months of initiation of the medication (T)?
Meaning PPICOT Question Examples:
How do pregnant women (P) newly diagnosed with diabetes (I) perceive reporting their blood sugar levels (O) to their healthcare providers during their pregnancy and six weeks postpartum (T)?
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