Asking clinical questions

Queries from patients and healthcare professionals generate questions that require specific, accurate, and reliable answers in order to provide the most beneficial forms of care. Queries related to healthcare are likely to arise every day in relation to:

  • Patients receiving care
  • Clinicians providing care
  • Managers evaluating or reviewing healthcare services

Straus et al. (2005) suggest that there are ‘background’ and ‘foreground’ queries [1] . Background queries might be concerned with information such as the physiology or prevalence of a condition and are relatively easy to answer through a single source of information. An example of a background query could be ‘How does blood clotting occur in the body?’, or ‘What is the prevalence of pulmonary tuberculosis in Australia’?

‘Foreground’ queries emerge in relation to aspects of care, treatment options, and possible outcomes in relation to specific patients or situations. These types of questions are less likely to have one simple, ‘black or white’ answer, and may require a comprehensive search for the most recent evidence.

Examples of these types of queries are shown below. Click each question for clinical examples.

Typical queries and clinical examples

What is the likelihood?

What is the likelihood of adhesions following laparoscopic surgery?

What are the options?

What are the management options for ectopic pregnancy?

What is the most effective treatment?

What is the most effective treatment for juvenile arthritis?

What are the benefits?

What are the benefits of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)?

What are the risks?

What are the long-term risks following abdominal hysterectomy?

What are the side effects?

What are the possible side effects of taking long term non steroidal anti-inflammatories?

How will the condition progress?

How fast does muscular sclerosis typically progress in a 16 year old girl?