The attitudes of Australian GPs to evidence-based medicine: a focus group study.
Over the last 6 years there has been an exponential increase in the publication of medical literature on evidence-based medicine. In Australia, as in many other parts of the world, there have been calls for an increase in the practice of evidence-based medicine. In general practice, two major themes of criticism have been the lack of relevant research evidence in primary care and the failure of evidence-based medicine to take into account the complexity of the consultation. We aimed to explore the attitudes of Australian GPs to evidence-based medicine. We conducted a qualitative study using evidence-based guidelines as a model to explore attitudes within focus group interviews. Focus group data were analysed using grounded theory methodology. The study was set in the Australian cities Melbourne, Adelaide and Darwin. The subjects were 27 GPs in five focus groups. Data were used to generate a model illustrating factors affecting the consideration and use of evidence within consultations. Prior beliefs and experience had a strong influence on decision-making. Overall, the GPs had a positive attitude to evidence-based medicine and stated that this could be a helpful strategy for meeting their information needs. These needs arose during the consultation and were frequently generated by patients. The evidence-based approach was regarded as particularly useful when patients required validation of their management or had specific queries. However, the GPs also expressed some concerns, such as the application of evidence from clinical trials to individuals, and the appropriateness of using research evidence with certain patients. They also feared a move away from the 'art of medicine'. None of the GPs expressed a need for critical appraisal skills. The Australian GPs in this study had mixed views about the increasing profile of evidence-based medicine, and the use of this paradigm in practice. Acceptability was more likely to be influenced by relevance to general practice and local contextual and patient factors than by the strength, or critical quality of the evidence.