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POEMs: Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters

Canada has always been a leader in evidence-based medicine. How can doctors keep on top of the constant (and sometimes conflicting) new evidence? One answer is POEMs.

On this episode of Boldly, Dr. Mark Ebell, Editor-in-Chief of Essential Evidence Plus, family physician and Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Georgia, and Dr. Roland Grad, family physician, researcher and associate professor of Family Medicine at McGill University, discuss POEMs—Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters. They explain how the POEMs process works, how their delivery has evolved­ – and what it will look like in the future.

How do you handle patients who want more information? Dr. Grad shares his experience and how he’s making medical research more accessible.

Listen now to find out what “medical ping-pong” is, why it’s a problem and how POEMs can solve it.

tweetable: “[POEMs] became very popular, very fast.”

Key takeaways

How does the POEMs process work?

  • According to Dr. Ebell, they are looking for practice-changers—research that could change how clinicians practice medicine.
  • The team identifies studies that meet their criteria.
  • They write up a structured summary, which is peer-reviewed before release.
  • It’s essential to have a quick turnaround.
  • They have been creating POEMs for about twenty years.
tweetable: “So, what we’re looking for are what we call practice-changers.”

When did POEMs start going out by email?

  • POEMs have taken many forms throughout the years.
  • Initially, there was a paper version of POEMs, but they switched to email in 1997.
tweetable: “We try to turn it around quite quickly so that our readers can be updated promptly.”

What else are they doing with this information?

  • Dr. Grad noticed that some patients just wanted more information.
  • It’s easy to identify the top 20 POEMs, as rated by clinical relevance by CMA members.
  • He has been writing an annual article covering these topics.
tweetable: “Informally, I hear from physicians who say [this summary] was really helpful.”

What lies ahead for POEMs?

  • Studies can end up having conflicting information. Sometimes one study can completely contradict another.
  • POEMs can help protect against this medical ping-pong or reversal.
  • Patient-oriented evidence helps resolve some of this by putting it in context.
  • Clinicians can understand how confident they can be with any recommendation published in a POEM.
tweetable: “Our hypothesis is that reading POEMs would somewhat protect against this phenomenon of ping-pong or reversal…”


Recommended resources

POEM of the Week Podcast, a weekly podcast, co-hosted by Dr. Ebell, discussing a recent noteworthy POEM

Daily POEM research summaries archive, the collection of all daily POEMs—can be sorted by date/category or searched by keyword. CMA members have full access through Joule’s subscription to Essential Evidence Plus (login required).

Top POEMs (Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters), an American Family Physician database of the annual POEMs

Top 20 POEMs of the past 20 years: A survey of practice-changing research for family physicians 
summaries, an Annals of Family Medicine research paper co-authored by Dr. Ebell

Evidence-based medicine's recent setbacks: Kenneth Lin, MD, examines what's been happening with EBM, an article discussing issues in EBM, as of late 2018, but praising POEMs



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The opinions stated by podcast participants are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries, including Joule. Joule does not endorse any views, product, service, association, company or industry mentioned in this podcast.