Dementia is prevalent among older adults and requires expert care and decision making that draws from sound evidence. Evidence-based practice (EBP) is strongly established in health care and aims to ensure the best outcomes by implementing what is shown to be effective from research in clinical practice and service delivery. Although there are issues regarding the interpretation and application of EBP, there seems to be a consensus about the importance of identifying and assessing the evidence for its significance for care provision.
The evidence-based medicine model coincides with the concept of knowledge translation—meaning, the application of evidence to practice. The ever-growing body of literature and investigation considers knowledge translation and its influence on dementia practice. Studies have shown that residential aged care nursing staff lack knowledge in the areas of sleep disorders, nutrition and antipsychotic medications, relating to patients with dementia.
Both knowledge translation and EBP require the initial finding and identifying of evidence. A model for translating evidence into practice requires the search for evidence first. However, significant challenges to finding this evidence exist, usually within journal articles in bibliographic databases. Care professionals must have skill in searching for and have access to each bibliographic database.
With a growing number of articles, finding relevant current evidence can be difficult. PubMed currently provides over 24 million abstracts. Effective searching in online bibliographic databases requires knowledge of various terminology in a given field and the particular grammar of searching each database. Dementia care professionals may not possess the expertise in information retrieval, not the time, confidence, or willingness to compose complex search strategies to find the best available evidence. Yet, crucial health care decisions will be made based on their search results.
A study aimed to develop a searching resource for dementia care professionals to ameliorate access to the literature and evidence base and which could be made available through the Web. A Dementia Search Filter was developed by the Australian palliative care knowledge network (CareSearch) in partnership with HammondCare as part of a project to produce a set of evidence-based services to connect dementia care professionals to evidence about best practice in dementia care. A search filter is a validated search method modeled to obtain information pertaining to a particular topic or study design from an online bibliographic database. The gold standard set, which ensures that the search filter is of optimal sensitivity in obtaining pertinent literature, is a set of references representative of the complete scope of the field of dementia. Researchers of the study used the gold standard set to successfully create a validated Dementia Search Filter for PubMed and OvidSP Medline that could be used on the two websites to assist in connecting clinicians and researchers with the best available evidence for dementia. The hope for the development of this new validated tool is that those working in the increasingly important and demanding field of dementia care will find the best research to support their practice and contribute to better health outcomes for all.