Book Review

A Concise Guide to Observational Studies in HealthcareEver since the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry of 2001, the primacy of evidence-based practice in health care has been assured. What is perhaps less well appreciated is how that evidence is collated and interpreted. For many, the spectre of medical research can be daunting and so it falls to books like this to help assuage some of those fears.No previous knowledge of observational studies is required as the author successfully navigates the basic tenets of this subject without leading the reader into a labyrinth of confusion. An honest critique is presented on the relative strengths and weaknesses of observational studies, and the pertinent differences between them and clinical trials (the other mainstay of healthcare research) is distinguished. An excellent account is also given of the elements of a typical process for conducting an observational study, succinctly delineating what can undoubtedly be a complex process.Questionnaire design, data collection, interpreting results and outcome measures are predictably addressed, but the real ‘money shot’ is how the author is able to relate the concept of observational studies to developing medical science and, ultimately, clinical practice. Each chapter is appropriately referenced and specific focus is given to relevant studies which have adopted some of the principles discussed in the text.There will undoubtedly be more in-depth reference material on the market which covers this type of research, so for those with some familiarity with observational studies and medical research in general, this is possibly not for you. Yet, while it is not the most voluminous text, it is certainly one of the more illuminating.Be it medical students or healthcare professionals, whether you are conducting an observational study or simply concerned with interpreting one, you won't go far wrong with this book. A concise but informative guide which I would recommend for those considering observational studies.

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