Formulating and Implementing the Treatment Plan and Evaluation

Original Editor - Wanda van Niekerk based on the course by Benita Olivier

Top Contributors - Wanda van Niekerk and Jess Bell  

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In step four of the evidence-based practice process, the clinician discusses options with the patient. Step five involves formulating an agreed-upon treatment plan, step six considers the implementation of this plan, and step seven is where you evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment plan. When thinking about the 5 'A's of evidence-based practice, these steps cover the 'A's for Apply and Assess.

You can learn more about the five 'A's here: Defining the Evidence Based Practice Decision-Making Model.

Discussing the Options with the Patient[edit | edit source]

When discussing options with the patient (i.e. step four of the evidence-based practice process), it is important to remember the following[1]:

  • the discussion with the patient should be interactive[2]
  • consider the patient's preferences, beliefs, values, circumstances and goals[3]
  • share the best available evidence that is applicable (also admit where there is not great evidence)
  • engage the patient in this discussion
  • as a clinician, reflect on and consider your own biases to ensure objectivity
    • cognitive biases that clinicians may be prone to include[4]:
      • optimism bias (inaccurate expectations about the benefits and harms of treatment)
      • sunken cost bias (when the clinician has invested time, training and resources in an intervention and is reluctant to discontinue this specific course of treatment)
      • commission bias ("the tendency towards action rather than inaction")
      • mechanistic bias (focus on how or why a treatment should work, instead of looking at the evidence that shows whether the specific treatment does work)
  • agree on the best way forward (i.e. treatment, referral)

This step in the evidence-based practice process is an opportunity to build a therapeutic alliance with the patient and to enhance treatment adherence and outcomes.[5]

You can read more on the therapeutic alliance and its components here.

Important Considerations When Discussing Options[edit | edit source]

Patient-Centred Care[edit | edit source]

Patient-centred care is defined as "a particular approach to the health-professional-patient relationship that implies communication, partnerships, respect, choice and empowerment, and a focus on the patient rather than their specific clinical condition.”[2] Key considerations of this approach include[2]:

  • treating patients with dignity
  • responding quickly and effectively to a patient's needs and concerns
  • providing patients with enough information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health care.

These are all crucial for informed, shared decision-making.

You can read more on patient-centred care here.

Shared Decision-Making[edit | edit source]

Informed decision-making is defined as "decisions that are shared by doctor and patient and informed by best evidence. Not only about the risks and benefits but also the patient-specific characteristics and values. It occurs in a partnership that rests on explicitly acknowledged rights and duties and an expectation of benefit to both.”[6]

Hoffman et al.[7] define it as follows: "Shared-decision-making is a consultation process where a health professional and a patient jointly participate in making a health decision, having discussed the options, their benefits and harms, and considering the patient's values, preferences and circumstances."[7]

Shared-Decision Making and Evidence-Based Practice[edit | edit source]

The patient is central in evidence-based practice, and including patient values, preferences, beliefs and circumstances is vital. This is where shared decision-making comes in. Shared decision-making provides an opportunity for the healthcare professional to introduce the evidence into a consultation and then discuss this with the patient. This is necessary so that a patient can construct their informed preferences. It requires healthcare professionals to know or find out what the best available evidence is and discuss the benefits and harms with the patient.[2]

What is NOT shared decision-making?[edit | edit source]

Shared decision-making is NOT[2]:

  • an extra or single step to be added to a consultation
  • to provide patient education
  • simply providing a patient with a decision aid
  • presentation of the healthcare professional’s findings and recommendations and asking the patient if they are okay with this

Shared decision-making is a process and can sometimes involve sharing patient education material and decision aids, but it is not dependent on these.[2] It involves a partnership between healthcare professionals and patients and requires communication both ways.[2]

Elements of Shared Decision-Making[edit | edit source]

Elements of shared decision-making can include[2]:

  • an explanation of the problem, condition and why it is necessary to make a decision
  • allowing and inviting the patient to engage
  • explanation of the options, benefits and harms of each option
  • exploring and considering patient needs, circumstances, values and preferences
  • making sure both parties understand each other and there is sufficient answering of questions
  • “engaging in collaborative deliberation and consensus”[2]
  • making or deferring of a decision

“It is not about who wins in the conversation, or who is right, or whose opinion is being chosen as the winning option in the end. We have to remain professional and remember to put the patient’s values and preferences and goals in the centre of the conversation.”[1]

Please read When Shared Decision Making and Evidence-Based Practice Clash: Infant Sleep Practices[10] if you would like to gain insight into how informed decision-making differs for each patient and situation.

The Importance of Shared Decision-Making[edit | edit source]
  • Improved communication: Shared decision-making enhances communication between healthcare professionals and patients.[4]
  • Knowledge translation: Shared decision-making is a useful step in knowledge translation as it helps integrate the best available evidence and patient preferences into a health-related decision.[4]
  • Patient preferences: There is not always one clear treatment option or test to do once the evidence is considered. Therefore, patient preferences play an important role in shared decision-making, in that it is the patient's preference that "should influence the decision on how to proceed."[4]
  • Enhanced patient buy-in and adherence: Acknowledging and incorporating patient preferences often leads to better patient buy-in and adherence, thereby improving treatment effectiveness.[4]
  • Addressing expectations: Shared decision-making also provides a way to address patient expectations around specific treatments and outcomes.[4]

You can read more on shared decision-making and an example of a process for shared decision-making here.

Formulating and Implementing the Treatment Plan[edit | edit source]

Step five in the evidence-based practice decision-making model is formulating a treatment plan. Step six involves the implementation of this treatment plan. These steps, including step four, are often mixed together, and it is possible to move forwards and backwards as deemed necessary in the management of a patient.

Factors to Consider when Implementing the Treatment Plan[edit | edit source]

Patient consent[11]: Informed consent refers to the patient's right to be informed about their condition and the risks and benefits of treatment options. It requires healthcare professionals to include their patients in their clinical reasoning process to reach a shared decision.[11] Roles and regulations are different from one country to another, and in some circumstances, you will find yourself challenged by the available resources, culture and your patient's capacity to make their own decisions.

You can read more on informed consent here.

"Consent is not something we obtain, but rather something that we receive from a patient."[1]

  • Documentation[12]
    • remember that patient notes can be used in legal situations
    • notes should be clear, accurate and legible
    • relevant clinical findings should be reported
    • record decisions made and by whom
    • record the patient's decision for treatment
    • record risks, benefits and alternatives discussed
    • record information given to the patient
    • record if a patient disagrees, and if reasons were provided, record this as well
    • record the process of the evidence-based practice model which you used to make a decision
    • record the treatment prescribed

Evaluation[edit | edit source]

Reflect, Review, Revise

Continuous evaluation (Assess) is important throughout the implementation phase. It is necessary to[13]:

  • evaluate treatment outcomes and the treatment process
  • consider if the treatment and patient goals were achieved
  • assess the evidence-based practice process that you followed

Ways to assess or audit the process of care can include[14]:

  • clinical audit: "a method of comparing what is happening in clinical practice against agreed standards or guidelines"[14]
  • peer review: evaluation of clinical performance by a peer
  • reflective practice: thinking critically about practice

Table 1 provides some examples of questions to ask when evaluating the performance of evidence-based practice.

Table 1. Examples of questions to use in evaluating the performance of evidence-based practice (adapted from Herbert et al.[14])
Reflection on practice
  • Do I ask myself why I do the things I do in my clinical practice
  • Do I discuss the basis for our clinical decisions with colleagues?
Determining the patient’s needs to formulate a clinical question
  • Am I asking clinical questions?
  • Are my clinical questions well-formulated?
  • Do I use different types of clinical questions for diagnosis, interventions, prognosis, etc?
Locating the knowledge resources
  • Am I searching for evidence?
  • Do I know the best sources of current evidence for my clinical discipline?
  • Do I have access to knowledge resources?
  • Are my search strategies becoming more efficient?
Appraising the quality of the knowledge resources
  • Do I read papers?
  • Do I use critical appraisal checklists for the different study designs?
  • Am I integrating my critical appraisals into my clinical practice?
Discussing the options with the patient, formulating the treatment plan and implementing the treatment plan
  • Do I discuss all options with my patient without any cognitive biases?
  • Do I use high-quality evidence to inform clinical practice?
Evaluating the effectiveness of the treatment plan and the evidence-based practice process
  • How did the patient respond to treatment?
  • Did the patient manage to adhere to the treatment plan?
  • Were my clinical sessions effective or were there any modifications along the way?
  • Do I audit my performance of evidence-based practice?
  • Where do I encounter challenges in the evidence-based practice process?

You can read more about a series of questions to facilitate introspective self-evaluation for the evidence-based practitioner here: Reflective evaluation.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Olivier, B. Formulating and Implementing the Treatment Plan and Evaluation Course. Plus. 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Hoffmann T, Bennett S, Del Mar C. Evidence-based practice across the health professions. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2023.
  3. Tringale M, Stephen G, Boylan AM, Heneghan C. Integrating patient values and preferences in healthcare: a systematic review of qualitative evidence. BMJ open. 2022 Nov 1;12(11):e067268.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Hoffmann TC, Lewis J, Maher CG. Shared decision-making should be an integral part of physiotherapy practice. Physiotherapy. 2020 Jun 1;107:43-9.
  5. Unsgaard-Tøndel M, Søderstrøm S. Therapeutic Alliance: Patients’ Expectations Before and Experiences After Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain—A Qualitative Study With 6-Month Follow-Up. Physical Therapy. 2021 Nov 1;101(11):pzab187.
  6. Towle A, Greenhalgh T, Gambrill J, Godolphin W. Framework for teaching and learning informed shared decision makingCommentary: Competencies for informed shared decision makingCommentary: Proposals based on too many assumptions. Bmj. 1999 Sep 18;319(7212):766-71.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hoffmann TC, Legare F, Simmons MB, McNamara K, McCaffery K, Trevena LJ, Hudson B, Glasziou PP, Del Mar CB. Shared decision making: what do clinicians need to know and why should they bother?. Medical Journal of Australia. 2014 Jul;201(1):35-9.
  8. Osmosis from Elsevier. Shared decision making. Available from: [last accessed 3/12/2023]
  9. ACSQHC. Shared decision making: an overview. Available from: [last accessed 3/12/2023]
  10. Gray B, Coker TR. When shared decision‐making and evidence based practice clash: Infant sleep practices. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 2019 Sep;55(9):1009-12.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Pietrzykowski T, Smilowska K. The reality of informed consent: empirical studies on patient comprehension—systematic review. Trials. 2021 Dec;22:1-8.
  12. Glen P, Earl N, Gooding F, Lucas E, Sangha N, Ramcharitar S. Simple interventions can greatly improve clinical documentation: a quality improvement project of record keeping on the surgical wards at a district general hospital. BMJ Open Quality. 2015 Jan 1;4(1):u208191-w3260.
  13. Drisko JW, Grady MD. Evidence-based practice in clinical social work. Springer; 2019.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Herbert R, Jamtvedt G, Hagen KB, Elkins MR. Practical Evidence-Based Physiotherapy. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2022 Jul 18.