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J Family Med Prim Care. 2013 Jan;2(1):9-14. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.109934.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis: Understanding the Best Evidence in Primary Healthcare.

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1
Department of Community Medicine, SRM Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Kattankulathur, Tamil Nadu, India.

Abstract

Healthcare decisions for individual patients and for public health policies should be informed by the best available research evidence. The practice of evidence-based medicine is the integration of individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research and patient's values and expectations. Primary care physicians need evidence for both clinical practice and for public health decision making. The evidence comes from good reviews which is a state-of-the-art synthesis of current evidence on a given research question. Given the explosion of medical literature, and the fact that time is always scarce, review articles play a vital role in decision making in evidence-based medical practice. Given that most clinicians and public health professionals do not have the time to track down all the original articles, critically read them, and obtain the evidence they need for their questions, systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines may be their best source of evidence. Systematic reviews aim to identify, evaluate, and summarize the findings of all relevant individual studies over a health-related issue, thereby making the available evidence more accessible to decision makers. The objective of this article is to introduce the primary care physicians about the concept of systematic reviews and meta-analysis, outlining why they are important, describing their methods and terminologies used, and thereby helping them with the skills to recognize and understand a reliable review which will be helpful for their day-to-day clinical practice and research activities.

KEYWORDS:

Evidence-based medicine; meta-analysis; primary care; systematic review

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