What is it about?

We conducted a research study where we collected over 200 clinical questions from family doctors. We then searched for answers to those questions using different types of clinical websites known to have reliable scientific information. We began our research by using clinical summaries, which are websites that give a short version of information that comes from other sources, that has already been checked by experts, and is therefore quick and easy to interpret. If we couldn't find an answer, we then searched on other sources that had more detailed information but were harder to interpret. We were able to find answers to over 90% of the doctors’ questions. Most of the answers we found came from the three selected clinical summaries websites (BMJ Best Practice, UpToDate, and DynaMed), with a median search time of only 4 minutes.

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Why is it important?

Doctors have many questions when treating patients, but they only look for answers to some of these questions. And when they do, they do not always use evidence-based, reliable resources. We found that barriers perceived by doctors which hinder evidence-based practice include insufficient time, and doubt that the search would yield an answer. Our study addressed this concern and found that most of the answers to family doctors’ clinical questions can be found in clinical summaries. We hope these results will encourage doctors to increase the use of clinical summaries, and alert decision makers of the importance of easy access to these kinds of resources by health professionals, which is still irregular in many countries in Europe.


Medical knowledge is permanently evolving, and doctors need to be constantly updated regarding changes in clinical practice. Treatments change as new drugs are tested, new technologies generate new diagnostic tests and new causes of old problems are discovered. Hence sometimes, doctors find out that treatments they used to use are not as helpful as before. Doctors have to keep learning to keep up with all these changes and to ensure that they decide with the best information available. But it can be hard to find the time and resources to keep learning. There is too much information to read everything that is published. And although Evidence-based Medicine recommends that doctors combine patients’ values and preferences, their experience, and the best available evidence, it is not always easy to know where and how to find reliable and accessible information. We hope our study will help doctors find the best and most reliable information more efficiently.

Catarina Viegas Dias
Comprehensive Health Research Center | CHRC

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Clinical questions in primary care: Where to find the answers - a cross-sectional study, PLoS ONE, November 2022, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277462.
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