Information Fluency (IF) is an important element of evidence-based medicine (EBM), a practice that advocates for considering the best available research, clinical experience, and patient preferences in clinical care. IF helps develop skills towards accessing, organizing, and evaluating information.
EBM is defined as:
"... the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of the individual patient. It means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research."
Sackett, D. Evidence-based Medicine - What it is and what it isn't. BMJ 1996; 312:71-72.
In other words, EBM provides researchers with a method for filtering the literature and its evidence to determine if it is appropriate for clinical application.
A cornerstone to practicing EBM is understanding the hierarchical system of classifying evidence known as the levels of evidence. The levels of evidence classify evidence in five levels that each build systematically from the lower levels and provide substantially more useful information for guiding clinical decision-making as you move up. The rationale behind the hierarchy is the internal validity and probability of bias of each type of study or evidence. For instance, randomized control trials (RCTs) rank higher than case series or expert opinion, because RCTs are designed to minimize bias and the risk of systematic errors. RCTs use the method of random allocation to two or more treatment groups to randomize any confounding factors that may bias the results. A case series or expert opinion is often biased by the author's experience or opinions with little to no control of confounding factors. Healthcare professionals are encouraged to find the highest level of evidence to answer clinical questions.