Integrating the framing of clinical questions via PICO into the retrieval of medical literature for systematic reviews
The PICO process is a technique used in evidence based practice to frame and answer clinical questions. It involves structuring the question around four types of clinical information: Population, Intervention, Control or comparison and Outcome. The PICO framework is used extensively in the compilation of systematic reviews as the means of framing research questions. However, when a search strategy (comprising of a large Boolean query) is formulated to retrieve studies for inclusion in the review, PICO is often ignored. This paper evaluates how PICO annotations can be applied and integrated into retrieval to improve the screening of studies for inclusion in systematic reviews. The task is to increase precision while maintaining the high level of recall essential to ensure systematic reviews are representative and unbiased. Our results show that restricting the search strategies to match studies using PICO annotations improves precision, however recall is slightly reduced, when compared to the non-PICO baseline. This can lead to both time and cost savings when compiling systematic reviews.