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Power and influence in clinical effectiveness and evidence-based medicine

, : Power and influence in clinical effectiveness and evidence-based medicine. Family Practice 17(6): 557-563

The need to base clinical interventions on valid findings of research has been a dominant theme in clinical practice during the last quarter of a century. However, there is much evidence showing that research evidence reaches everyday practice slowly. Solutions to this problem include evidence-based practice and implementation by guidelines and audit. Studies of these methods have included surveys of clinicians' views, implementation projects and evaluations of educational interventions, but they have not examined their implications for the power structure of clinical organizations. This is surprising, given the emphasis placed on medical power in sociological studies of health care. A framework derived from management theory defines and summarizes theories of power and influence under the headings: sources of power, overt methods of influence, unseen or covert methods of influence and individual response to influence. This framework is then used to analyse the power and influence possessed and exerted by general practitioners (GPs) and hospital consultants and how these are affected by evidence-based practice and guidelines and audit programmes. GPs are seen as having less expert power than consultants and to be more compliant with externally managed guidelines and audit programmes. It is pointed out that compliance with guidelines and audit programmes helps GPs to meet their contractual requirement to be involved in clinical audit activities. Evidence-based practice, which directly challenges the authority of expert opinion is seen as a threat to the power of consultants, but a potential opportunity for GPs and other clinicians whose status is traditionally lower.


PMID: 11120731

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