PIF TICK guide

What is clinical evidence?

Health information about treatments should be based on clinical evidence. Clinical evidence comes from clinical research.

Why does it matter?

Evidence-based health information can help you make vital decisions about your treatment and care.

How can I tell which clinical evidence is best?

There are many types of clinical evidence. The pyramid of evidence below ranks evidence from high to low. It was developed by doctors to help them rate the quality of evidence. Generally, the more people included in the research, the more reliable the findings.

How can I be sure about the evidence?

Research should be checked by other experts before it is published. This is called peer-review. It can be hard to be certain about clinical evidence. Health information should tell you if the evidence is uncertain or if medical experts have different opinions. 

Why would lower quality evidence be used?

Guidelines and reviews do not exist for all topics. In this case, evidence from lower down the pyramid will be used.

What does research tell me?

Everyone is different. Research can only tell you the most likely outcome. It can never guarantee what will actually happen to you.

What about ‘real world’ patient data?

Digital tools make it is easier to see what happens once treatments are used in the general population. Real-world data is important because some groups of people are under-represented in clinical trials.

Can I share my data?

You can help build evidence on your condition or treatment by giving consent for your data to be shared for research. Check how your data will be used and how your identity will be protected. 

Pyramid of evidence

Illustration of the pyramid of evidence

Pyramid adapted from The Evidence Based Medicine Pyramid https://s4be.cochrane.org/blog/2013/02/14/the-ebm-pyramid

Download the PDF guide

What is clinical evidence?

Published June 2021
Reviewed June 2023
Next review: July 2026

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