Evidenced Based Physical Therapy

Following the principles of evidence-based practice?

It’s a difficult task, I know: trying to manage your current patient load, keeping up with your paperwork, getting your progress notes done in a timely manner… who has time for evidence-based practice?

We all want to do the best we can for our patients. Doing so requires that we keep abreast of the latest developments in our area of practice. That’s not easy when you’re juggling a full patient load, and probably a family life as well. Here are some tricks that have helped me over the years:

Utilize “Push” technology: when you actively search the web for information, whether you’re using Google, Google Scholar or Pub Med, you are “pulling” the information to you. Information that comes to you automatically, on a regular basis, uses “push” technology. An example of this is setting up your e-mail program so that your e-mail is delivered automatically, or “pushed” to you. Here are other examples, useful in EBP:

  • RSS, or Rich Site Summary: By clicking on the RSS icon at the top of this page, and picking your RSS reader application (often the browser you’re using right now will suffice), you’ll be automatically notified whenever content on this website changes.
  • Have the table of contents sent to you automatically: this can be set up easily with pretty much any journal you subscribe to. As a member of the APTA (you are a member, aren’t you?), you can have the PT Journal table of contents sent to you each month. Section members can have their journals also e-mailed to them (JOSPT for orthopedics and sports, and Neurology Report for neurology).
  • Save your searches: If you’ve performed research using pub med, there’s a link in the upper right corner that allows you to save your search. If any articles are posted to augment that match your search criteria, you be notified by e-mail. How easy is that?
  • Utilize the “Related Articles” feature: often, when you’ve found an interesting article on the publisher’s website, you’ll see a link to “Related Articles.” A great example of this is the journal Manual Therapy. Some websites list articles that cited the article that you’re reading in their reference list; you can bet that those articles are also related.
  • Utilize the “Notify Me” feature: this is another example of “push” technology. You’ll be notified when the article you’re reading is cited by a new article. Again, it’s likely the new article is related to the one being cited.

Make it a habit: try to make it a regular part of your day or week to take time to do a little reading. I actually schedule a time in my calendar, literally. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I read articles at that time. It may be that I just peruse the table of contents for a particular journal (Physical Therapy, for example). If I see anything interesting, I’ll read the abstract. If it really looks interesting, I’ll try to get  a full text copy of the article.

Distribute the load: work together with your colleagues at work, or friends in the profession. If several people read one or two articles a week or even a month, and then you’re able to share your findings and how they relate to your clinical practice, you’ll find it much easier to stay on top of a wide range of topics.

I hope these tips help. Let me know how you’re doing!