Various developments at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) reinforce each other to establish evidence-based medical practices in Qatar, according to Dr Kameshwar Prasad, an internationally known expert in the practice, who recently spoke on the subject at the sidelines of a medical-pharmaceutical education workshop he facilitated at HMC's Education Center.
Evidence-based medicine consists in using the best available evidence gained from scientific methods and research in clinical decision making.
"Evidence-based medicine is basically using treatments and tests that have been proven to be more beneficial than risky, so that patients get the right treatment," said Dr Prasad, currently a neurology professor and director of the Clinical Epidemiology Unit at All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
"This is important because prior to the introduction of this concept, there was less emphasis on looking at the level of proof available for treatments or tests which are prescribed to patients. Now with the evidence-based medicine movement, both physicians as well as organizations have become more conscious of using only those treatments and tests which are proven to be beneficial."
Dr Prasad commended HMC's Department of Medical Education for its efforts in teaching the practice at HMC, having conducted its first workshop ten years ago and regularly since then. The need for local facilitators prompted trainors' workshops, a number of which have been conducted by Dr Prasad himself. Initially, the training on evidence-based medicine involved physicians and residents, and was since extended to include interns and the present batch of pharmacists.
Dr Prasad also cited other developments at HMC that support his positive outlook on the practice of evidence-based medicine in Qatar, such as accreditation and reaccreditation by the Joint Commission International (JCI) of all HMC hospitals. The JCI's emphasis on the use of evidence-based treatment means HMC satisfies the relevant criteria for ensuring the quality of care provided by its physicians, surgeons and all those involved in patient care.
"Another activity supporting the prospects of evidence-based medicine at HMC is in regard to aligning its residency program with the standards of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education International (ACGME-I) in the United States. One of the core competencies in the ACGME's curriculum for residency programs is evidence-based medicine," said Dr Prasad, adding that the undergraduate medical school at Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar is already emphasizing evidence-based medicine. "All of these factors are very positive indications towards a culture of evidence-based practice at HMC."
A fellow at McMaster University in Canada when the movement of evidence-based medicine started, Dr Prasad was a student of Gordon Guyatt, physician and professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, who first introduced the term evidence-based medicine in the early 1990s. Prasad works closely with a Canada-based international working group on evidence-based medicine, and has provided many workshops on the subject in Canada and other countries such as Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
"Evidence-based medicine consists of three pillars: best research evidence, clinical expertise and patient expectations and values," said Dr Haleema Al Tamimi, Acting Director of Pharmacy at Hamad General Hospital, who organized the present training program for 60 pharmacists. "It is very important in terms of finding a unified language of speaking among all healthcare providers. We also cannot ignore experience. Knowledge and practice should go hand in hand in evidence-based medicine. It should be knowledge that we use in practice to improve patient care."
Dr Al Tamimi added, "We have been working towards an organized, structured program to train our pharmacists on evidence-based medicine. We adopted the idea from our Department of Medical Education, which is very supportive of our goal to eventually extend this program to all the pharmacies in HMC facilities all over Qatar."