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Respiratory Therapy - RCP


PICO is an acronym used in evidence-based practice to frame and answer a clinical question.

PICO is useful in academic and clinical settings. It can help you:

  • form a question that focuses on the most important issue for a patient or a population
  • identify key terms to use when searching for evidence
  • select results that directly relate to the situation


PICO Breakdown


What are their most important characteristics?

  • Primary problem
  • Disease state
  • Co-existing condition

Describe your patient specifically:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic factors

ALWAYS include this piece in your search.


What do you want to do for the patient?

  • Order a test
  • Prescribe a drug
  • Order a procedure

Other considerations:

  • Main intervention
  • Prognostic factors
  • Exposures

Almost always include this piece in your search.


What is the alternate intervention, if any?

  • A different drug
  • No medication
  • A Placebo
  • A different test
  • A different procedure

It is less common to include this piece in a search.


What are you hoping to achieve, measure, or change for the patient?

  • Alleviate symptoms
  • Improve test results
  • Reduce adverse events
  • Improve function

Could also be the result NOT desired.
Sometimes include this piece in your search.

Sample PICO Questions

Example Questions

1. In adults with COPD (patient), does pulmonary rehabilitation (intervention) reduce the rate of COPD-related hospitalization (outcome)?

2. Is the use of intravenous magnesium sulfate (intervention) more effective than nebulized magnesium sulfate (comparison) for improving the pulmonary function (outcome) of children with acute asthma (patient)?

3. Does hand washing (intervention) among healthcare workers (population) reduce hospital acquired infections (problem)?

Searching with PICO

What kind of sources do I need?

Additional Help

Step by Step Research Guide Citation Help Tutorials