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Deaf Education and Hearing Sciences Resource Guide: PICO

The Clinical Question

PICO is a mnemonic device that helps you remember the key components of a well focused question.  The question needs to identify the key problem of the patient, what treatment you are considering for the patient, what alternative treatment is being considered (if any) and what is the outcome you want to avoid or promote.

Thinking of your question in this way will help you identify search terms and keep your search focused on the question at hand.

Population/Problem

Describe your patient specifically:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic factors

What are their most important characteristics?

  • disease state
  • co-existing condition
  • primary problem


ALWAYS include this piece in your search.

Intervention

What do you want to do for the patient?

  • Order a test
  • Prescribe a drug
  • Order a procedure

Other considerations:

  • Main intervention
  • Prognostic factors
  • Exposures

Almost always include this piece in your search.

PICO

Comparison

What is the alternate intervention?

  • Two different drugs
  • No medication
  • A Placebo
  • A different test
  • A different procedure

Rarely include this piece in your search.

Outcome

What are you hoping to achieve, measure, or change for the patient?

  • Alleviate symptoms
  • Improve test results
  • Reduce adverse events
  • Improve function

Could also be the result NOT desired.
Sometimes include this piece in your search.