Our method

New medical studies are published every day. The internet has millions of sites offering health advice. How, with all this information available, do you find a source you can trust?

Best Health makes it easy to find reliable health information. At Best Health, we collect the most accurate, up-to-date research from around the world. We use this research to judge how well different treatments work, and we make this information available in language that's clear and easy to understand.

The research used to write Best Health comes from our sister publication, Clinical Evidence. Clinical Evidence is a collection of the best research evidence, and gives doctors and other healthcare workers an up-to-date summary of what's known (and what isn't) about a wide range of medical conditions. It's published by the BMJ Publishing Group.

By basing Best Health on Clinical Evidence , we give everyone access to see the same research that doctors use, presented in plain English.

We follow a painstaking process to develop each topic on Best Health. Here are the key steps:

Step 1: Selecting a topic

Best Health covers illnesses that affect people in the UK, from serious, long-lasting conditions, like heart failure, to more minor ones, such as coughs and colds. We are guided by health statistics, doctors, and patient groups.

Step 2: Asking the right questions

We cover the treatment options for medical conditions, and give background information to explain the conditions themselves. At Best Health, we work with an international team of doctors, patient groups, and the Clinical Evidence team, to find out what matters most to doctors and patients.

We aim to answer the questions you have about health care, such as, "Is the MMR vaccine safe?", or "What does the research say about exercise for people with heart failure?"

Step 3: Finding the evidence

All our information is based on research evidence from high-quality medical papers. Here's how we gather this evidence:

Information about treatments

To answer each question about a treatment, the Clinical Evidence information specialists do a thorough search for studies that measure how well treatments work. First, the information specialists look for the best types of studies (called systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials). If there are none of these, the information specialists look for other studies, and say how much they can be relied on and what problems there are with the research.

Once the research has been collected, the information specialists weigh up the evidence and take out the studies that aren't reliable enough. They do this using a method developed by experts in medical research.[1][2]

The collected research helps us find out which treatments work best for a condition.

Information about conditions

The information that we provide to explain medical conditions is based on high-quality medical papers and textbooks chosen by our information specialists. On each page of the site you will find references, which give details of the sources we have used.

Step 4: Making sense of the evidence

In Clinical Evidence, the research on each treatment is analysed and summarised by a practising doctor who is regarded as a key opinion leader in his or her speciality. Each topic is then reviewed and checked by at least three more doctors. Then, a leading expert provides advice on how doctors can put this research evidence into practice.

Experienced medical writers then translate this evidence into plain English.

Deciding which treatments work

We group treatments into categories according to how good the evidence is that they work. Here is an explanation of what each category means:

CategoryWhat it means
Treatments that workThere's clear evidence from randomised controlled trials that the treatment works. Also, the evidence shows that the chance of problems is small compared with the benefits.
Treatments that are likely to workThere is some evidence that the treatment works.
Treatments that work, but whose harms may outweigh benefitsThere's some evidence that the treatment works, but there's also evidence that it can have serious side effects. Doctors and patients need to weigh up the benefits and risks according to what each person needs and wants.
Treatments that need further studyWe don't know if the treatment works, because there is either too little research to tell, or the quality of the research is not good enough.
Treatments that are unlikely to workThere is evidence that the treatment probably doesn't work.
Treatments that are likely to be ineffective or harmfulClear evidence shows the treatments don't work or will be harmful.

Step 5: Presenting the answers

All the information on Best Health is regularly checked and updated by a team of editors. Periodically, the information is checked by doctors and by people living with the medical conditions we describe.

The information about drugs has been reviewed by a team of qualified pharmacists.

This is medical research evidence you can use, put together by a team you can trust.

Declaration of competing interests

As part of our policy of maximum transparency, all Best Health staff involved in the critical appraisal, reporting, or editing of Best Health topics, or with the planning of future topics or other products for Best Health, are required, once a year, and on an ongoing basis, to actively declare any competing interests. The declaration of competing interests for Best Health staff is reported below. These declarations are provided by the senior editor and editorial team. For full names of Best Health staff, please see Our Contributors.

Any changes to the following declarations reported by staff will be updated on this site on a monthly basis.

AS, LA, GS and SR declare that they have no competing interests.

Last updated: Oct 11, 2011