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PJ Online | News feature | POEMs in the PJ: a new series about treatments relevant to your patients

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PJ Online homeThe Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 272 No 7286 p179
14 February 2004

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News feature

POEMs in the PJ: a new series about treatments relevant to your patients

A new series starts this week in The Journal. Harriet Adcock (on the staff of The Journal) explains what POEMS are

POEM series

Related websites

What is a POEM?

POEMs are designed to be relevant and must:

• Address a clinical question faced by health care professionals
• Measure outcomes that are important to clinicians and patients, such as symptoms, morbidity, quality of life and mortality
• Have the potential to change practice

Only original research and systematic reviews are used to produce POEMs. Preliminary results or evaluations reporting on intermediate or surrogate outcomes are not usually reviewed.

POEMs must also be valid. For example, studies of treatments must be randomised controlled trials. For reviews, only systematic reviews, including meta-analyses, are considered.

This week, The Journal publishes its first POEM — a short synopsis of research that has been identified as being valid and of significance to patients (see right).

POEM stands for Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters, a concept originally thought up by David Slawson, professor of family medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and Allen Shaughnessy, a pharmacist and adjunct professor of family and community medicine at the Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Pharmacists may already have come across POEMs, either because they have access to the database of research summaries produced by the company behind POEMs or because they have seen them published in the BMJ.

The idea of POEMs was born out of a need for useful information. The most useful of useful information must be relevant to everyday practice, it must be correct and it should be easily obtained. Professor Slawson and Professor Shaughnessy came up with a neat equation to describe this:

Usefulness = (relevance x validity) / work to access

The formula reveals that the best source of information provides highly relevant and valid information with minimal effort required to obtain it.

Pharmacists need access to valid, relevant information

It is important that pharmacists are familiar with the latest research in therapeutics. They should also be aware of the level of evidence that backs up trial conclusions. However, pharmacists, like other health care professionals, are busy people experiencing information overload. Extracting meaningful information relevant to the treatment of patients is not always easy.

POEMs are designed to address the problem of information overload. Each month, a group of editors reviews over 100 journals looking for valid pieces of research. Articles that meet the POEM criteria for validity and relevance (see Panel) are summarised. These summaries, in turn, are reviewed and revised. Each POEM is then allocated a “level of evidence” indicator, based on codes used by the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.

Although POEMs were originally designed to help doctors working in primary care, The Journal believes that some will be useful to pharmacists. InfoPOEMs, the commercial enterprise behind POEMs, agrees. InfoPOEMS has access to a range of journals beyond the reach of PJ staff and is allowing us to publish up to four POEMs a month.

Pharmacists interested in subscribing to the full POEM service should access the InfoPOEMs website (

  * PDF files on PJ Online require Acrobat Reader 4 or later


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Citation: The Pharmaceutical JournalURI: 20011221

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