Evidence-based practice in osteopathy- results from a UK national survey (and clearing things up!)

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is now considered to be the optimal (albeit imperfect- see here) approach to healthcare practice and decision-making- and all healthcare professionals from art therapists to doctors should be adopting an evidence-based approach.

Unfortunately, over the years, EBP has been misinterpreted as ‘EXCLUSIVELY applying research’ or ‘all patients receive the SAME algorithmic treatment based on evidence’ or that ‘EBP REMOVES the individual patient and clinician from the decision-making process so that practice can be ‘more OBJECTIVE’. This has resulted in unnecessary tensions amongst some healthcare professionals (including osteopaths), which negatively impact clinicians’ adoption of EBP of their engagement in research for their practice. Sadly, this also has a knock on affect for patients, in so much as it may mean they are not receiving the most optimal care, treatment or diagnostic tests.

However, EBP recognises the INDIVIDUALITY of patients (e.g. their preferences, values, experiences etc) and COMBINES these with the BEST AVAILABLE research evidence (from quantitative AND qualitative studies) which is then INTEGRATED with the EXPERTISE (e.g. judgment, proficiency, skills and knowledge etc) of the clinician to reach a decision TOGETHER with the patient which is APPROPRIATE for the them as an individual.

I recently was part of an international team of researchers from Australia, Sweden and the UK who aimed to investigate UK osteopaths’ attitudes, skills and utilisation of research evidence in practice, their training in EBP, as well as the barriers to, and facilitators of EBP adoption.

Our findings suggest that UK osteopaths have a generally positive attitude toward EBP.

  • UK Osteopaths reported moderate-level skills in EBP, and typically engage in EBP-related activities at a moderately-low level.
  • Encouragingly, most respondents wanted to improve their skills to facilitate the uptake of EBP into osteopathic practice.
  • Additionally, the findings highlight the need for further research; in particular, the need to (i) investigate the meaning that osteopaths ascribe to EBP, (ii) establish the skill level of osteopaths in implementing EBP in clinical practice, (iii) determine a reasonable and clinically feasible level of EBP-related activity for osteopaths, and (iv) develop suitable interventions and strategies that support osteopaths to effectively improve the uptake of EBP.

We are running the same study amongst Australian and Swedish osteopaths so watch this space.

The paper is OPEN ACCESS in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders and can be downloaded here for free.

1 Comment

  1. Frances on December 12, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks for the share Oliver, will definitely be checking that out!

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