Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

PHAS 6013: Clinical Research and Evidence-Based Practice: PICO

The Clinical Question


THERAPY determining the effect of interventions on patient-important outcomes
DIAGNOSIS establishing the power of a test to differentiate between those with and without a target condition or disease
HARM ascertaining the effects of potentially harmful agents on patient-important outcomes
PROGNOSIS estimating a patient's future course

4 ELEMENTS OF THE CLINICAL QUESTION (PICO) - use for therapy questions

 PICO Worksheet  PICO Tutorial



What are their most important characteristics?

  • primary problem
  • disease state
  • co-existing condition

Describe your patient specifically:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic factors

ALWAYS include this piece in your search.


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.


What is the alternate intervention, if any?

  • A different drug
  • No medication
  • A Placebo
  • A different test
  • A different procedure

It is less common to include this piece in a search


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.

Example Questions

1. Does hand washing (intervention) reduce (outcome) hospital-acquired infection (problem)?

2. Is vitamin C supplementation (intervention) as effective as Zinc supplementation (comparison) in reducing the length of a cold (outcome) in adult females (patient)?