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      Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis: Understanding the Best Evidence in Primary Healthcare

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          Abstract

          Healthcare decisions for individual patients and for public health policies should be informed by the best available research evidence. The practice of evidence-based medicine is the integration of individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research and patient's values and expectations. Primary care physicians need evidence for both clinical practice and for public health decision making. The evidence comes from good reviews which is a state-of-the-art synthesis of current evidence on a given research question. Given the explosion of medical literature, and the fact that time is always scarce, review articles play a vital role in decision making in evidence-based medical practice. Given that most clinicians and public health professionals do not have the time to track down all the original articles, critically read them, and obtain the evidence they need for their questions, systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines may be their best source of evidence. Systematic reviews aim to identify, evaluate, and summarize the findings of all relevant individual studies over a health-related issue, thereby making the available evidence more accessible to decision makers. The objective of this article is to introduce the primary care physicians about the concept of systematic reviews and meta-analysis, outlining why they are important, describing their methods and terminologies used, and thereby helping them with the skills to recognize and understand a reliable review which will be helpful for their day-to-day clinical practice and research activities.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          J Family Med Prim Care
          J Family Med Prim Care
          JFMPC
          Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care
          Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd (India )
          2249-4863
          2278-7135
          Jan-Mar 2013
          : 2
          : 1
          : 9-14
          Affiliations
          Department of Community Medicine, SRM Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Kattankulathur, Tamil Nadu, India
          Author notes
          Address for correspondence: Dr. P Ganeshkumar, Department of Community Medicine, SRM Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Kattankulathur, Tamil Nadu, India. E-mail: ganeshkumardr@ 123456gmail.com
          Article
          JFMPC-2-9
          10.4103/2249-4863.109934
          3894019
          Copyright: © Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care

          This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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          Review Article

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