How the context of palliative care influences the evidence 

Palliative care is a rapidly evolving, multidisciplinary field of practice. The types of evidence and knowledge produced within palliative care are accordingly varied and encompass many different types of research methodologies. Specific problems in research in the palliative care setting make some research exceedingly difficult to do, so that some study designs we might like to use to answer important questions relating to practice may never be available to us.

An evidence-based approach is one which turns to the evidence to answer clinical and service-related questions, and uses the best available evidence to do so. It involves appraising the quality of the evidence being used, and acknowledges the strength of the evidence for decision making.

In practice, this means that CareSearch:

  • Includes many different types of research and evidence, and applies appropriate standards to each to assess their quality
  • Is developing a quality assurance process that is up-front and transparent, so that basic standards of evidence are met before a resource, link or reference is included in the site
  • Refers practitioners back to the literature to further explore most of the issues covered, and also provides pre-written PubMed literature search strategies for many important topics
  • Identifies areas of uncertainty in the literature, and gaps in the evidence base.

The breadth of this approach also requires a broad definition of the concept of evidence. Within this context our working definition for evidence that guides the project is based upon that used by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation 2005 (105kb pdf).

Evidence is information that comes closest to the facts of a matter. The form it takes depends on the context. The findings of high-quality, methodologically appropriate research are the most accurate evidence. Because research is often incomplete and sometimes contradictory or unavailable, other kinds of information are necessary supplements to or stand-ins for research. The evidence base for a decision is the multiple forms of evidence combined to balance rigour with expedience – while privileging the former over the latter.

Last updated 03 September 2021

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