WS5: Evidence-based medicines information searching skills for clinical pharmacists

Dr Lorna Marie West, Principal Clinical Pharmacist, Clinical Pharmacy Practice Unit, Mater Dei Hospital, Malta
Dr Corinne Bowman , Principal Pharmacist, Health-Central Procurement and Supplies Unit, Malta


Clinical pharmacists face medicines information queries on a daily basis within their clinical practice. This translates into the need for adequate familiarity with medicines information searching methods to identify correct scientific evidence. While the Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) provides specific information for a particular drug, at times the information required is not covered by the SmPC but requires a more in-depth search of the literature. There are various sources of medicines information and different methods of searching that aid in the emergence of evidence, ranging from searching of specific sources, to scoping reviews of the literature and ultimately to conduction of systematic reviews. Systematic reviews are placed in the highest echelon in the quality of evidence hierarchy.

Target audience:

To support clinical pharmacists on different skills to use when searching evidence-based medicines information and to identify the adapted search strategies they may need to use in their daily clinical practice to generate the evidence-base.

Learning Objectives:

After the workshop, participants will be able to:
1. Describe different searching methods and databases that are available to support them when searching for scientific evidence in their clinical practice.
2. Conduct a simple search to find scientific-based medicines information evidence for their clinical practice.
3. Conduct a more elaborate search to find scientific-based evidence for their clinical practice.
4. Understand principles for conducting a systematic review to generate the evidence base for their clinical practice.
5. Describe quality assessment tools which support clinical pharmacists to appraise critically the scientific literature.

Content and Structure:

Introduction (45 minutes) – Different search methods, including searching in key databases, scientific journals, international guidelines, SmPC, books and others, will be highlighted. Examples of three different types of searches will be described: 1) how to conduct a simple search, such as to determine the dose of a specific drug in a patient with renal impairment, 2) how to conduct a scoping review of the literature in cases where information is not readily available, such as the use of certain herbal remedies in a patient who is also prescribed multiple medication for chronic comorbidities, and 3) how to conduct a systematic review to generate evidence to be used in the clinical pharmacy practice setting, such as the generation of practice guidelines. Hands-on tasks may be given during this time for better understanding of the concepts being highlighted e.g. variance in the use of keywords.
Workshop (45 minutes) – The workshop will comprise a hands-on interactive group work (4-5 participants) during which each group will be assigned a clinical query case directed to a clinical pharmacist. Clinical query cases will be based on either:
1. A clinical query arising from a healthcare professional,
2. A clinical query arising from a patient,
3. A clinical query arising from an institution.
Each group will be requested to generate evidence for the clinical query case that was assigned to them, by using the appropriate search methods and sources that will be described in the introduction. Participants will also be asked to assess quality of evidence.
Group discussion (30 minutes) – A representative of each group will present their group’s search results. Workshop participants will also be asked to reflect on any difficulties encountered during their clinical case query search, and discuss on possible solutions to overcome these difficulties.

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