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The University of Tampa Macdonald-Kelce Library

PAM Physician Assistant Medicine: PICO


What is the question?

Is the question QUANTITATIVE?
Is the question QUALITATIVE?


Sometimes you may also see PICOTTS
  • Patients
  • Intervention
  • Comparison
  • Outcome
  • Timeframe
  • Type of study
  • Setting

What Is It


In the steps required to do evidence-based research the library/ librarian can help you identify/refine the clinical question and collect the best and most pertinent evidence related to your topic.

The PICO format is a method used for implementing evidence-based practice projects.

Sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic, etc.
Therapeutic measure, medication, tests, etc.
Other interventions, standard of care, Comparison may not always be there  
Should be measureable

The PICO acronym is broken down as follows:

P = Patient population of interest

I = intervention of interest

C = comparison of interest

O = outcome of interest

Melnyk, B. M., Fineout-Overholt, E. (2005). Evidence based practice in nursing and health care: A guide to best practice. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

Here is an example of a PICO statement:

Does implementation of routine depression screening among adults in a free primary care clinic with a vulnerable population increase proper identification of the appropriate mental health disorder and decrease misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosing?

Using the PICO format:

P = adults in a primary care clinic with a vulnerable population

I = routine depression screening

C = percentage distribution of patients screened for depression compared to a total number of patients. Pre and post-tests provided before and after education to test clinicians; calculation of difference in scores using paired t-test to determine significance.

O = 100% of adult patients screened for depression results in proper diagnosing and identification, providing an opportunity for intervention. Clinic staff would be educated on the importance and need to screen all patients for depression.

Developing a good question


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