Optometrists show rudimentary understanding of evidence-based practice but are ready to embrace it: can barriers be overcome?

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Abstract

Background:

Evidence-based practice (EBP) involves integration of the best available evidence from research, the patient's preferences or circumstances, the clinical environment and the health practitioner's expertise. There have been several qualitative studies of EBP in health-care but none has focused on the profession of optometry. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to assess optometrists' perceptions of EBP in optometry.

Methods:

This exploratory qualitative study employed focus group meetings and individual telephone interviews to gauge understanding of and opinions about EBP in a convenience sample of Australian and Saudi Arabian optometrists. Results were summarised in accordance with the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) checklist. NVivo software was used for qualitative analysis of the results.

Results:

Most participants were supportive of EBP; however, their perceptions did not generally reflect a deep understanding of the definition or process of EBP. Participants reported using a combination of low and high level evidence to inform their clinical decisions. In line with findings from other health professions, barriers included lack of time and lack of access to information, while enablers such as education, organisational support and self-motivation were cited.

Discussion:

Our findings suggest a need for better training of optometrists in EBP as well as resources and approaches that support EBP in optometry, such as an EBP database of pre-appraised evidence and more secondary sources of evidence, such as systematic reviews and critically appraised topics.

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