The art and science of clinical knowledge: evidence beyond measures and numbers

Lancet. 2001 Aug 4;358(9279):397-400. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(01)05548-9.


Medical doctors claim that their discipline is founded on scientific knowledge. Yet, although the ideas of evidence based medicine are widely accepted, clinical decisions and methods of patient care are based on much more than just the results of controlled experiments. Clinical knowledge consists of interpretive action and interaction-factors that involve communication, opinions, and experiences. The traditional quantitative research methods represent a confined access to clinical knowing, since they incorporate only questions and phenomena that can be controlled, measured, and counted. The tacit knowing of an experienced practitioner should also be investigated, shared, and contested. Qualitative research methods are strategies for the systematic collection, organisation, and interpretation of textual material obtained from talk or observation, which allow the exploration of social events as experienced by individuals in their natural context. Qualitative inquiry could contribute to a broader understanding of medical science.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Research / standards