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Keywords:

  • attitudes;
  • critical appraisal;
  • evidence-based medicine;
  • general practice;
  • implementation;
  • organisational learning

Abstract

Rationale, aims and objectives  Longstanding debate on evidence-based medicine (EBM) may have reached a critical saturation point. I briefly report on systematic reviews on the recurring themes in the critical literature. In this context, some criticisms to EBM are substantial and enduring, although convincing arguments to contrast unresolved issues have yet to be produced. Nonetheless, few changes have been adopted and conservative attitudes persist in EBM. Despite its ‘success’, implementation in practice has been inexorably overshadowed leading to paradoxical shortcomings. This controversial scenario offers a formidable occasion to gain needed insight. The aim of this paper is to attempt a comprehensive analysis by reframing a number of key concerns, while furnishing pragmatic, interdisciplinary solutions for these deep-rooted dilemmas. In the interests of all stakeholders, I seek to promote a concerted effort to resolve conflict and build consensus.

Methods  This paper explores a strategically unifying vision of primary care, based on current understanding of practice patterns, having a research-friendly ‘common ground’ where practitioners’ information needs may be met. In addition, an analysis of existing problems identifies underlying ‘root causes’. Moreover, I expediently reframe crucial matters by focusing on EBM, more than as a paradigm, as an organisation, hence amenable to a variety of cross-disciplinary analyses and solutions. Finally, recent state-of-the-art reviews on implementation and dissemination research are cited for the pertinent implications for study design and practice.

Results  Present policies and influential testimonials on behalf of EBM encounter the pitfalls of hindering learning and progress through defensive attitudes and mechanisms. Current study designs and evaluation criteria must strive to adapt to real-world settings, rather than vice versa.

Conclusions  The arguments exposed herein alter the terms of the debate on EBM and may outline a basis for initiatives with conflict-resolution and consensus-building scopes.