The EBM Resource Pyramid: Helping to Find and Use the Strongest Evidence

The EBM Resource Pyramid guide from HSLS enables health sciences readers to tour the hierarchy and levels of evidence-based medicine (EBM) and practice in a self-paced manner. Evidence-based resources beyond medicine are included, such as nursing and physiotherapy. The graphical display of the pyramid breaks down the categories into seven levels. Those levels are matched with links to HSLS resources, each described in detail. Incorporated into the pyramid structure are the distinctions between filtered and unfiltered resources. Via this guide, you can quickly link to groups of filtered and unfiltered resources.

Not all evidence is created equal. The pyramid’s structure facilitates recognition and grading of the evidence. The evidence at the top (systematic reviews) ranks higher than that at lower levels (e.g., cohort studies). For instance, a guideline formulated by a Delphi survey of experts’ opinions rates weaker than one based on systematic reviews of guideline recommendations. Hints for searching for evidence in the various database descriptions help guide strategies to find the strongest levels of evidence.

The TRIP (Turning Research into Practice) Database is noted on the pyramid and covers numerous types of strong evidence. It compiles and ranks retrievals from a variety of resources including research evidence, images, videos, educational courses, patient leaflets, and more. It filters the results into such categories as systematic reviews, evidence-based synopses, guidelines, and controlled trials. It ranks publications by quality, textual relevance, and date.

The resources in this HSLS guide are listed top-down by their level, just as indicated in the pyramid. Systematic reviews, the top category, can be searched via the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. To search expert opinions, which is in the lowest category, you could use UpToDate.

The visual display of the pyramid intuitively organizes these online resources by their evidence grade. Explore each level or hone in on the resource type needed. Some online resources are freely accessible and others are library subscriptions but they all facilitate finding information, graded on the strength of their evidence.

Evidence-based medicine information sites including teaching materials and toolkits for EBM are also included on this guide. Evidence-based medicine and practice tutorials augment the actual evidence links to help consolidate evidence retrieval and its usage.

~Michele Klein-Fedyshin