The Importance of Evidence-Based Practice in Occupational Therapy - (2023)

How many times have you heard the phrase evidence-based practice over the last few years? Applying the latest research to your treatment sessions does seem to make sense, doesn’t it?

But how do you know when the evidence supports the practice of occupational therapy?

This article will explain what evidence-based practice is, why it is important for OTs, and how you can tell when evidence has a basis in occupation.

Evidence-Based Practice, Defined

What we now know as evidence-based practice started in the early 1990s as evidence-based medicine. This term, developed by David L. Sackett, et. al. (1996) from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, referred to the combination of the best evidence from research, clinical expertise, and patient values to achieve the best outcomes.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has applied this definition to our own practice by explaining evidence-based practice as “the integration of critically appraised research results with the clinical expertise, and the client’s preferences, beliefs and values.”

This definition shows that evidence-based practice isn’t just reading a research article and deciding that you want to try the technique described. Rather, it’s a careful analysis of evaluation and treatment methods addressed in the body of recent research and how those methods can be applied to the care you provide to your patients on a case by case basis.

(Video) Acute Care + Occupational Therapy

Why is Evidence-Based Practice Important?

1. More Effective Treatment Techniques

Evidence-based practice ensures that your treatment techniques are effective. Analyzing the best and most pertinent research ensures that the treatments that you use with your patients actually work.

A good example from the world of pediatrics is the use of weighted vests with children who have sensory processing disorders. Weighted vests have been used by occupational therapists to provide deep pressure input to children with autism and attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for many years.

When questioned about why the vests work, however, the evidence supporting the use of these vests was found to be lacking. The research supporting the use of weighted vests consisted mostly of case studies or small, convenience samples with no controls. Researchers have worked to fill in the gaps in the research regarding the use of weighted vests, including their use with adults, which includes systematic reviews like this one from 2018.

2. Better Cooperation From Patients

The Importance of Evidence-Based Practice in Occupational Therapy - (1)

Evidence-based practice allows you to help your patients make informed choices for their occupational therapy programs. Following evidence-based practice allows you to easily answer that question that patients always ask: “Why do I have to do this?”

Patients who are aware of their situation and who want to be in control of their own health care will be more compliant with your interventions and will be more satisfied overall with your services when they know that there is evidence showing that those programs lead to results. The evidence behind your treatment techniques will help you to show your patients that there is a point to your treatment.

(Video) What is Occupational Therapy?

3. Defending Services To Third Party Payers

Evidence-based practice helps you to show third party payers that you are using treatments supported by research. Medicare, Medicaid, and many insurance companies want assurance that the treatment you provide to your patients is based on the latest research before they will pay for your services.

Following the principles of evidence-based research helps you to easily provide this information to third party payers. AOTA now provides evidence-based practice resources to help you do this through the Evidence-Based Practice Project.

4. EBP Keeps Your OT Skills Current

Evidence-based practice ensures that your clinical skills are up to date. If you are a brand-new OT or COTA, you probably don’t have to worry about this too much. If you graduated years ago, however, the practice of occupational therapy has changed significantly since you were in school and the techniques you are using might not be the ones supported by the current research. Using evidence-based practice helps you to keep your clinical skills current.

Ensuring that Evidence is Occupation-Based

In your quest for research that supports or refutes your treatment practices, you will want to keep in mind that any evidence you choose to use should have a basis in occupation. Promoting occupation for our patients is what we do, after all.

So how do you know that the evidence you’re looking at is occupation-based?

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Here are a few methods that you can use to locate and analyze occupation-based evidence:

(Video) Occupational Therapy Niche Site Hits $5k/mth! How Sarah and Brad Used Great Content and Links

  • Do a keyword search. Evidence that focuses specifically on a treatment’s basis in occupation will include keywords such as “occupation-based” or “occupational engagement.”This dissertation from 2015 provides an example of a research study that directly analyzes the occupation of bathing within groups of older adults who live in the community. Notice the keyword “occupation-based” in the title, making it easy to locate in a search.
  • Look for occupations as a part of the research design. This literature review completed by the AOTA Evidence-Based Practice Project provides evidence that correlates occupational therapy treatment techniques, re-engagement in daily activities, and return to work. The incorporation of daily activities and return to work in the design of the review ensures that this study is occupation-based.
  • Search for research related to specific occupations. If you want to know the most effective method for addressing dressing skills in stroke patients, include the keywords “occupational therapy”, “dressing skills” and “stroke”. This case study included in AOTA’s Evidence-Based Practice Project was located using these keywords, plus the date range 2015-2021.

Best practice in occupational therapy strongly encourages the application of any treatment technique to occupation, so make sure to look for occupation-based references in the research that you read.

The Importance of Evidence-Based Practice in Occupational Therapy - (2)

If an article on the use of neuromuscular stimulation correlates to an increase in muscle strength but does not apply that strength to a functional activity such as lifting a box as a part of a job or carrying dishes across a kitchen, its usefulness in your actual research base for treatment will be limited.

The use of evidence-based practice has become increasingly important in the field of occupational therapy and it is critical that you begin considering the evidence as you provide your interventions to your patients.


All this information might sound daunting at first, especially if you have not yet incorporated evidence-based practice into your clinical treatment. This literature review by Thomas and Law discusses some of the pertinent factors involved in the use of evidence-based practice by occupational therapists. It may help you to start incorporating these principles into your practice.

(Video) Job Interviews

*If you’re looking for evidence-based continuing education but aren’t sure where to start, be sure to check out MedBridge Continuing Education for unlimited online CEUs that are backed by current evidence. You can get $175 off of their standard price by using this link or the promo code MYOTSPOT.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for MedBridge and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through this link at no extra cost to you. This goes directly back into the operating costs of My OT Spot.


Evidence-Based Practice and Research (2018). American Occupational Therapy Association,

Nilsen, D., Gillen, G., Arbesman, M., & Lieberman, D. (2015, September 01). Occupational Therapy Interventions for Adults With Stroke. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September 2015, Vol. 69, 6905395010p1-6905395010p3. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.695002

Paquette, S., OTD, OTR/L, CPE, D-ABVE. (2016). Critically Appraised Topic: Evidence for the Effectiveness of Exercise and Work-Related Interventions.

Reynolds, S., Lane,S.J., & Mullen,B.(2015). Brief Report—Effects of deep pressure stimulation on physiological arousal. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 6903350010.,

(Video) OTD Debate OTR 320

Sackett, D. L., Rosenberg, W. M., Gray, M., Haynes, B., & Richardson, S. (1996, January 13). Evidence based medicine: What it is and what it isn’t. BMJ: 312:71.

Thomas, A., & Law, M. (2013). Research utilization and evidence-based practice in occupational therapy: A scoping study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, e55–e65.


Why is it important to use evidence-based practice in occupational therapy? ›

The benefits of evidence-based practice in occupational therapy cannot be overstated. When OTs base their clinical decision-making on the latest research in addition to their own expertise, costs go down, efficiency increases, and most importantly, patient outcomes improve.

Why is evidence-based practice important? ›

Why is Evidence-Based Practice Important? EBP is important because it aims to provide the most effective care that is available, with the aim of improving patient outcomes. Patients expect to receive the most effective care based on the best available evidence.

What is EBP in occupational therapy? ›

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is essentially a clinical decision making framework that encourages clinicians to integrate information from high quality quantitative and qualitative research with the clinician's clinical expertise and the client's background, preferences and values when making decisions. 1.

How do you incorporate evidence-based practice in occupational therapy? ›

Steps of Evidence-Based Practice
  • Step 1: Formulating the Clinical Question. ...
  • Step 2: Searching Efficiently for the Best Available Evidence. ...
  • Clinical Example. ...
  • Step 3: Critically Analyzing the Evidence for Its Validity and Usefulness. ...
  • Step 4: Integrating the Appraisal With Personal Clinical Expertise and Client's Preferences.
1 Jan 2010

What are the 3 components of evidence-based practice in social work? ›

Components of Evidence-Based Practice
  • Best Available Evidence. ...
  • Clinician's Knowledge and Skills. ...
  • Patient's Wants and Needs.

How can evidence-based practice improve your patients recovery and functional outcomes? ›

EBP in Physical Therapy

Goals of evidence-based practice in physical therapy include: Ensuring that patient decisions are based on evidence. Provide better information to the patients. Being able to analyze and comprehend the latest research and be able to use that information for more improved patient care.

How does EBP improve patient experience? ›

How Does EBP Improve Patient Care? EBP improves patient care because nurses use the most current scientific information to care for and treat individuals or communities. In addition, EBP uses data that matches a patient's condition so nurses can pinpoint the ideal care strategies, thus increasing the rate of recovery.

Which of the following is the main goal of evidence-based practice? ›

The goal of EBP is to "improve the quality, effectiveness, and appropriateness of health care by synthesizing the evidence and facilitating the translation of evidence-based research findings," according to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

How is evidence-based practice used in physical therapy? ›

The use of evidence‐based practice in sports physical therapy may improve health care quality, reduce medical errors, help balance known benefits and risks, challenge views based on beliefs rather than evidence, and help to integrate patient preferences into decision‐making.

What is an evidence based resource? ›

Evidence-based resources (EBRs) are reviews of published intervention evaluations or studies that have evidence of effectiveness, feasibility, reach, sustainability, and transferability.

What is Aota's Vision 2025? ›

Vision 2025

As an inclusive profession, occupational therapy maximizes health, well-being, and quality of life for all people, populations, and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living. Occupational therapy is evidence based, client centered, and cost-effective.

What is meant by evidence-based practice requirements? ›

What is it? Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an approach to care that integrates the best available research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values.

What is the first step of evidence-based practice? ›

The first step in the EBP process is to phrase your scenario as a specific, answerable question: Ask a well-built clinical question. This will help you to focus on the key issues and identify what evidence you need to answer your question.

What are the 5 A's of EBP? ›

We therefore advocate to be more explicit and aim to clarify the distinction between EBP for the individual patient and for a group of patients or caregivers by discussing the following five steps: ask, acquire, appraise, apply and assess [4].

What are the 5 models of evidence-based practice? ›

Evidence-based practice is a process that involves five distinct steps which we call the five 'A's: Ask, Access, Appraise, Apply, Audit.

What are the four pillars of evidence-based practice? ›

Abstract. Rationale, aims and objectives: Four pillars of evidence underpin evidence-based behavioural practice: research evidence, practice evidence, patient evidence and contextual evidence.

How do you evaluate the effectiveness of evidence-based practice? ›

Five Steps of the Evidence-based Process
  1. Ask a clinical question.
  2. Obtain the best research literature.
  3. Critically appraise the evidence.
  4. Integrate the evidence with clinical expertise, patient preferences.
  5. Evaluate the outcomes of the decision.

What are some of the benefits to implementing evidence-based practice in a clinical setting? ›

Better patient care decisions that also save nurses time.

Evidence-based practice also benefits nursing by keeping practices current and relevant, increasing nurses' confidence and decision-making skills, and contributing to the science of the profession.

What are the challenges and barriers to evidence-based practice? ›

This study identified that the barriers to implementing EBP were time mismanagement, lack of knowledge, negative attitude, lack of motivation, lack of resources and training. These barriers could be categorized under individual and institution level barriers.

How does EBP affect patient outcomes? ›

The intended effect of EBP is to standardize healthcare practices to science and best evidence and to reduce illogical variation in care, which is known to produce unpredictable health outcomes. Development of evidence-based practice is fueled by the increasing public and professional demand for accountability in ...

What happens if evidence-based practice is not used? ›

“When evidence is not used during clinical practice, important failures in clinical decision making occur: ineffective interventions are introduced; interventions that do more harm than good are introduced; interventions that do more good than harm are not introduced; and interventions that are ineffective or do more ...

Why is it important to improve patient outcomes? ›

Increases patient engagement

Better patient experiences, which involves seeing patients as unique individuals, increase the likelihood that they and their families or other caregivers will become more engaged in their own health outcomes.

What are the three sources of evidence-based practice? ›

Sources for Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)

These sources include, peer-reviewed journal articles, randomized clinical trials, and clinical trials.

What is the most important basis for treatment approaches in evidence-based practice? ›

What is the most important basis for treatment approaches in evidence-based practice? Scientifically sound methods. A treatment approach based on scientifically sound evidence is known as evidence-based practice.

What are examples of evidence-based interventions? ›

Evidence-Based Practice Interventions
  • Behavior Therapy. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) ...
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Anxiety. ...
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma/PTSD. ...
  • Exposure Therapy. ...
  • Family Therapy. ...
  • Group Interventions. ...
  • Holistic Approaches. ...
  • Parent Training.

Why is evidence-based physiotherapy important? ›

It helps progress the profession's approach to developing, using and promoting research and its contribution to generating new evidence, knowledge transfer and service improvement.

What is evidence-based practice in healthcare? ›

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is defined by Duke University Medical Center as "the integration of clinical expertise, patient values and the best research evidence into the decision-making process for patient care."

Why is it important to follow an evidence-based or reputable approach to fitness and health and where can this well being advice be sought? ›

In summary evidence-based training allows us to focus on the most important things first, optimises your training time, provides you with better nutritional plans and saves you money on ineffective supplements.

How many evidence-based practices are there? ›

What is ABA? A number of the 27 evidence-based practices draw directly from the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA, a robust empirical approach to the study of human behavior, has often been misinterpreted.

What are types of evidence? ›

Generally speaking, there are two primary types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence, as its name implies, is evidence that directly links a defendant to the crime for which they're on trial without any need for inference. A common example would be the sworn testimony of an eyewitness.

What treatments are evidence-based? ›

Examples of Interventions Used in Evidence-Based Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ...
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. ...
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy. ...
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.

What are some emerging practice areas in occupational therapy? ›

In fact, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has identified three “emerging areas” within the Health and Wellness practice area. These emerging areas are: chronic disease management, preventive care, and obesity.

How old is the profession of occupational therapy? ›

The National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (NSPOT), now called the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), was founded in 1917 and the profession of Occupational Therapy was officially named in 1921.

What is the centennial vision? ›

The Centennial Vision: A Framework for Reimagination

When they arrive, those guests discover an exciting, ever-evolving “People's Pier” for the 21st century, featuring an array of arts, cultural, educational, entertainment and special events programming that offers a uniquely Chicago experience.

What is evidence-based practice in occupational therapy? ›

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is essentially a clinical decision making framework that encourages clinicians to integrate information from high quality quantitative and qualitative research with the clinician's clinical expertise and the client's background, preferences and values when making decisions.

Why is it important to have evidence? ›

Evidence is used to back up or refute arguments, and it helps us to make decisions at work. Using evidence allows us to work out what is effective and what is not.

How is evidence-based practice implemented? ›

Implementation of EBP mainly involves four sequential steps [2]: first, framing a clear question based on a clinical problem; second, searching for relevant evidence in the literature; third, critically appraising the validity of contemporary research; and fourth, applying the findings to clinical decision-making.

How long does it take for evidence-based practice to be implemented? ›

Evidence-based practice is held as the gold standard in patient care, yet research suggests it takes hospitals and clinics about 17 years to adopt a practice or treatment after the first systematic evidence shows it helps patients.

What is evidence and why is it important? ›

Evidence can be described as the material placed before a Court for the purpose of assisting a Judge to reach a decision in the matter. A Judge's decision is limited to the evidence placed before them, therefore it is important that a party provide as much relevant evidence as possible to support their case.

Why is evidence-based practice in social work important? ›

Evidence-based practice helps social workers deliver the treatment and services most likely to achieve the goals and meet the needs of their clients. It also helps ensure that successful programs are widely implemented.

What is the biggest barrier to using EBP? ›

The most important individual barriers to implementation of EBP are lack of time to read literature (83.7%), lack of ability to work with computer (68.8%), and insufficient proficiency in English language (62.0%).

What is evidence-based social work practice? ›

EBP is a process in which the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience, ethics, client preferences, and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services.

What is meant by evidence-based practice? ›

Evidence-based practice is about making better decisions, informing action that has the desired impact. An evidence-based approach to decision-making is based on a combination of using critical thinking and the best available evidence.

What are the 4 types of evidence? ›

There are different types of evidence that are available in a criminal trials that can prove or disprove specific facts about the case.
The Four Types of Evidence
  • Real Evidence. ...
  • Demonstrative Evidence. ...
  • Documentary Evidence. ...
  • Witness Testimony.
19 Mar 2021

What is an example of evidence informed practice? ›

Yet today, a significant evidence-informed protocol is to provide oxygen to patients with COPD to prevent hypoxia and organ failure. Why is oxygen therapy now the standard of care? Because it's now known—thanks to solid research—that oxygen therapy can actually improve quality of life for COPD patients.

What are the 5 models of evidence-based practice? ›

Evidence-based practice is a process that involves five distinct steps which we call the five 'A's: Ask, Access, Appraise, Apply, Audit.

What is evidence-based practice in healthcare? ›

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is defined by Duke University Medical Center as "the integration of clinical expertise, patient values and the best research evidence into the decision-making process for patient care."

What are examples of evidence-based practices in education? ›

  • Establishing mathematics goals to focus learning.
  • Implementing tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving.
  • Using and connecting mathematical representations.
  • Facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse.
  • Posing purposeful questions.
  • Building procedural fluency from conceptual understanding.
28 Nov 2018

What is the most challenging aspect of evidence-based practice? ›

One of the greatest challenges facing implementation of EBP is lack of knowledge on use of evidence based practices. It has been shown that most nurses do not have enough knowledge to integrate research findings in their practices.

What are the four barriers of evidence-based practice? ›

Four organizational barriers to implement Evidence-based practice among nurses were found by reviewing the literature which are (“lack of support and supervision”, “lack of training” and “education”, “limited resources” and “time restriction”).

What are the challenges and barriers to evidence-based practice? ›

This study identified that the barriers to implementing EBP were time mismanagement, lack of knowledge, negative attitude, lack of motivation, lack of resources and training. These barriers could be categorized under individual and institution level barriers.

What are evidence-based solutions? ›

Evidence-Based Solutions is a healthcare, problem-solving company. We develop fundamental solutions that assist healthcare teams to better care for patients more efficiently and safely, and empower individuals to control their wellbeing and influence their care.

What are the different types of EBP models? ›

Common EBP Models

The model phases are interprofessional team formation; evidence review, critique, and synthesis; change implementation through piloting; ongoing evaluation; and outcomes dissemination.

(Deerenee’s The OT Chronicles)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rubie Ullrich

Last Updated: 18/06/2023

Views: 6419

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rubie Ullrich

Birthday: 1998-02-02

Address: 743 Stoltenberg Center, Genovevaville, NJ 59925-3119

Phone: +2202978377583

Job: Administration Engineer

Hobby: Surfing, Sailing, Listening to music, Web surfing, Kitesurfing, Geocaching, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Rubie Ullrich, I am a enthusiastic, perfect, tender, vivacious, talented, famous, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.