Using research evidence in mental health: user-rating and focus group study of clinicians’ preferences for a new
clinical question-answering service
Elizabeth A. Barley*, Joanna Murray† & Rachel Churchill*, *Section of Evidence-Based Mental Health and †Section of Mental Health and Ageing, Health Services and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, London, UK
Background and objectives: Clinicians report difﬁculties using research in their practices. The aim of the study was to describe needs and preferences for a mental health clinical question-answering service designed to assist this process.
Method: Multi-disciplinary clinicians participated in a focus group; users of the service supplied feedback.
Results: Fifty-four clinicians received answers to 84 questions about mental health treatments. User ratings showed that the answers had multiple uses:
informing health care (43), education (22), staff development (28) and research (12), and were considered useful, clear, relevant and helpful. Focus group participants appreciated critically appraised summaries of evidence and stressed the time-saving beneﬁt of the service. Clinicians without a medical training were least conﬁdent in applying evidence. Attitudes to research were positive, but concern was expressed about its potential misuse for political purposes. This appeared to arise from an ambiguity around the term ‘insufﬁcient evidence’, which participants felt is widely misinterpreted as ‘evidence of no effect’.
Conclusions: A highly valued, responsive service has been developed. A range of clinicians ﬁnd critically appraised summaries of research useful. Education about the use of research may help clinicians to be more evidence based.
Implications for Practice
Providers of evidence-based information should deﬁne carefully the meaning of a ﬁnding of insufﬁ- cient evidence as there is confusion over this.
Clinical question answering services should be tailored to the speciﬁc needs of their users as information needs may vary across settings.
Methods used to produce answers to clinical questions should be transparent and consider the vary- ing levels of understanding of research methods among clinicians from different professions.
Correspondence: Elizabeth A. Barley, Section of Evidence-Based Mental Health, Health Services and Population Research Department, PO Box 32,
Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, De Crespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF, UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Implications for Policy
Access to critically appraised and summarized research evidence, such as that provided by clinical ques- tion answering services, should be available to clinicians in order to save them time and help them be more evidence based.