About 25 years ago the ideas around evidence-based practice consolidated and quickly became the paradigm under which healthcare professionals were expected to work. While the change in practice model had its teething-problems and there continue to be challenges, the notion that clinical decisions should be underpinned by high-quality clinical research is today’s reality for clinicians in all areas of medicine. Sixteen years ago, a group of five forward-thinking physiotherapy academics and clinicians realised that physiotherapists, whether they be treating patients or working in research, would face some barriers to meeting the expectation of being evidence-based practitioners. Key amongst the barriers was the ability to find relevant studies from the tidal-wave of scientific medical research that is published every year, and the ability to assess the credibility of the studies that are relevant.
With the aim of addressing these barriers, PEDro was born. PEDro is the Physiotherapy Evidence Database. In brief, PEDro is a database that indexes all the practice guidelines, systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that are relevant to any of the areas of physiotherapy practice and published in the peer-reviewed literature. Essentially, if you have a question about the effects of a physiotherapy treatment, and it has been addressed in a practice guideline, systematic review or clinical trial – it’s on PEDro!
Beyond the fact that all (and only) these studies are collected together in one place, there a couple of other features that make PEDro the best place to go for finding evidence for the effectiveness of physiotherapy treatments.
- It’s free – all you need is an internet connection and you can access the database.
- The search interface allows you to search by keyword, or drop-down boxes for body part, type of therapy, problem, practice area, and several others besides.
- Quality ratings – this is where PEDro really puts itself ahead of other databases. All RCTs are rated by people with research methods expertise on the PEDro scale that scores the validity of the study. So the trial reports with higher scores will provide the most reliable information, and those with lower scores less so.
Since coming online 16 years ago, PEDro has grown at a huge rate, not only in terms of the volume of research it contains but also with respect to its use by healthcare providers and researchers worldwide. Nowadays it contains over 31,000 studies, the PEDro scale has been used in hundreds of published articles, the site is accessed in 225 countries and territories around the world (more than the UN!) and over 5000 searches are conducted every day, that’s an average of one every 17 seconds. So far the homepage has been translated into 12 languages, with more in the works and the social media content is available in both English and Portuguese.
In order to meet the needs of busy clinicians and researchers PEDro is always looking to adapt and provide new features and content. The newest feature is called ‘Evidence in your inbox’. The way this works is that you can choose a particular area of interest, for example neurology, and sign up with your email address. Then, once a month you will receive an email with links to all the new content posted onto PEDro tagged in that area. The links will take you through to the abstracts of the studies available on the PEDro site, for example in October your neurology email update would include 10 systematic reviews, and 23 RCTs.
PEDro is run and maintained by the same group of five physiotherapy academics on a not-for-profit basis as part of a registered charity. Keeping the service free relies on support from industry partners, organisations and individuals who believe in the value of the service and want to contribute to the profession. At this point things are tight and PEDro needs help to keep operating, growing and innovating. Organisations and individuals can make a one-off, tax-deductible donation at http://www.pedro.org.au/english/donate/.