How to make health and wellness decisions informed by “evidence-based” practices

Woman using laptop and  taking notes on evidence-based healthcare practices

Serving the community — health care consumers, patients and their families — is one of our key responsibilities as directors of the Community Core branch of the Helene Fuld Health Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare.

Our goal is to promote health and improve health care quality by empowering you to make informed decisions using trusted sources and the latest, most reliable research.

Here, we answer some frequently asked questions to help you navigate the many resources available and make the best health and wellness decisions for you and your family.

What do “person-centered” and “evidence-based” mean in health care?

“Person-centered” or “patient-centered” health care involves considering a person’s values and preferences, then making sure they’re front and center when making any health care decisions or deciding how to support wellness goals. This type of care takes a holistic approach and tends to be linked to improved patient satisfaction, well-being, quality of life and health-related knowledge.

“Evidenced-based” care involves making informed decisions based on the latest evidence as demonstrated through the findings of trusted research studies, clinician expertise and the person’s preferences.

To pull it all together, think of your health care as a three-legged stool:

  • One leg represents the expertise of your health care provider.
  • Another represents you and your family’s preferences and circumstances.
  • The third represents the reliable research findings.

If any one leg is holding too much weight or missing altogether, health care decisions become unbalanced and the stool collapses. When all three legs are in place, each critical piece contributes to an improved treatment plan, which patients are more inclined to follow.

Why is it so important that I get involved in my wellness plan?

Most health care providers readily support evidence-based practice, but many patients don’t realize how essential the patient perspective is to its success.

Of course, providers want to be sure they’re up to date with best practices, but patients are a really important part of that, too. After all, you’re the experts in your own life. You know what works for you and what will fit in with your day-to-day life. It’s important to make the best decision, in collaboration with your provider, knowing you have the most current, scientific, research-based information.

And don’t be reluctant to speak up. The guidance and expertise of providers is important, but it’s also important to share information you’ve discovered independently and to ask questions about how it could affect your care.

In the end, how you live your healthiest life, physically and mentally, is really up to you. Being empowered with accurate information can help you feel confident that you can do that.

How can I find evidence-based information to support my health care?

We can’t overemphasize the importance of seeking out the best sources of accurate information and avoiding the pitfalls designed to feed you misinformation. It’s been shown that accessing less reliable health information online can increase worrying and tension with family members and lead to postponement of medical care or reluctance to follow a health care plan.

While the sheer amount of information available can seem overwhelming, there are free, readily available resources that can help. Many have pulled together the best health information based on scientific evidence and research.

  • The National Library of Medicine (NLM) houses information on a wide range of health-related topics.
  • The NLM also has a specific consumer-friendly site called MedlinePlus, which is written for people who aren’t in medical or research fields.
  • The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center patient education resources include the Library for Health Information and the Patient Education Library.
  • The Cochrane Consumer Network is a community open to patients, caregivers, family members and others interested in high quality health evidence. The free membership provides a monthly news digest containing up-to-date health evidence and other topics of interest.
  • The Cochrane library provides a collection of databases with high-quality, independent health evidence. Each review within the Cochrane database of systematic reviews contains a plain language summary that can be helpful for consumers.
  • Several additional sites are accessible through the Community Core Resource Links as part of the program we direct at the Helene Fuld Health Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. These free resources of trustworthy information are independently accessible 24/7.

How can I spot health misinformation?

Health misinformation is a health-related information that's false, inaccurate or misleading based on the most current and best available evidence.

It can be intentionally spread by trolls, people who create fake content and post it online, or by bots, automated accounts that promote the misinformation.

It also can be spread unintentionally by people unaware of the role they play by reposting inaccurate information or headlines on social media. That’s why it’s so important to help your friends and family find trusted sources of information by referring them to the resources listed in this article.

Some things you can ask yourself when determining if information is trustworthy:

  • Who wrote it? Do the authors have clearly listed credentials? These credentials should indicate they have the education and background to provide reliable information.
  • How is the content chosen? Who reviews it? Reliable research is “peer-reviewed.” That means it has been reviewed and evaluated by other experts in the same field to make sure it meets accepted standards.
  • When was the article published? You’ll want to review the most current information available.
  • Do multiple studies come to the same conclusion? If multiple studies have the same finding, it’s a good indication that there’s merit to that finding. Try not to rely on any single study to guide your decisions.
  • Can you contact the source? Is there legitimate email or other contact information?
  • Who sponsors or pays for the website and why? Are any advertisements clearly labeled? Any content that’s advertising or trying to sell a medication or product should be clearly marked as an advertisement. If the site is otherwise pushing a product, be especially wary.
  • Does the site avoid unbelievable or emotional claims? Be suspicious of anything that sounds outlandish or seems designed to make you act out of anger, fear or other strong emotions.
  • Is privacy protected? Does the site ask for your personal information? Does it tell you how it will be used? Are you comfortable with how it will be used?

For more tips:

  • Medline Plus offers a tutorial on evaluating online health information.
  • Take a look at the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General’s toolkit on avoiding health misinformation.

What is the Helene Fuld Health Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare and the Community Core?

The Helene Fuld Health Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare was created in 2016 at The Ohio State University College of Nursing through a $6.5 million gift from the Helene Fuld National Health Trust. It serves as a national hub for creating, teaching and sharing best practices to improve health care quality, safety, costs and patient outcomes.

The Community Core, established in 2019, is the newest of the institute’s four cores. It focuses on serving the public.

Other cores include the Academic Core, Clinical Core and Implementation Science Core.

The Academic Core focuses on teaching evidenced-based practice concepts and skills in academic programs. The Clinical Core focuses on educating health care providers and institutions in evidence-based decision-making. The Implementation Science Core helps researchers and providers use scientific strategies when making changes in health care settings.

How can I learn more about evidence-based health care?

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