Observational Studies and Evidence-Based Practice

Can't Live with Them, Can't Live Without Them

Published in: Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice, v. 3, no. 1, Mar. 2003, p. 1-4

Posted on RAND.org on March 01, 2003

by Ian D. Coulter

Read More

Access further information on this document at Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Role in Health Care, Stroup et al. define an observational study as "an etiologic or effectiveness study using data from an existing database, a cross-sectional study, a case series, a case-control design, a design with historical controls, or a cohort design." Generally, there are several major problems with the use of observational studies in systematic reviews of evidence for a treatment procedure. The first is that since all observational studies lack randomization, true assessment of efficacy is not possible. Furthermore, it is not possible to determine what biases may have influenced the results, both from the provider and the patient. Analytically, results from observational studies either cannot be pooled for a meta-analyses or can be done so only with caution.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.