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Physician's Assistant: PICO/Evidence Based Practice

Open Access Resources

How to Guides

What is PICO(T)?

PICO(T) stands for:

  • Population/ Patient Problem: Who is your patient? (or disease, health status, age, gender, race, sex)
  • Intervention: What do you plan to do for the patient? (specific tests, therapies, medications)
  • Comparison: What is the alternative to your plan? (for example, no treatment, different type of treatment, etc.)
  • Outcome: What is it that you want to accomplish, improve, measure, etc. (fewer symptoms, no symptoms, full health, etc.)
  • Time:  What is the time frame to achieve the outcome? (This element is not always included, so that's why it's in parentheses.)

Use the PICO(T) format to formulate questions. Your PICO(T) question will fall under one of these types:

  • Therapy: What is the best treatment or intervention?
  • Prevention: How can I prevent this problem?
  • Diagnosis/Assessment: What is the best way to assess or best diagnostic test for this patient?
  • Etiology/Causation: What causes this problem?
  • Prognosis: What are the long term effects of this problem?
  • Meaning:/Quality of Life: What is the meaning of this experience for patients?

It's important to know the type of question you're asking because it will help you focus on the most appropriate research:

 Type of          Look for:



Randomized controlled trials


Randomized controlled trials, Cohort studies, Case control studies


Prospective, blind controlled comparison to gold standard


Randomized controlled trials, Cohort studies, Case control studies


Cohort studies, Case control studies, Case series/Case report


Qualitative studies