‘It depends’: What 86 systematic reviews tell us about what strategies to use to support the use of research in clinical practice

Annette Boaz*, Juan Baeza, Alec Fraser, Erik Souza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The gap between research findings and clinical practice is well documented and a range of strategies have been developed to support the implementation of research into clinical practice. The objective of this study was to update and extend two previous reviews of systematic reviews of strategies designed to implement research evidence into clinical practice. Methods: We developed a comprehensive systematic literature search strategy based on the terms used in the previous reviews to identify studies that looked explicitly at interventions designed to turn research evidence into practice. The search was performed in June 2022 in four electronic databases: Medline, Embase, Cochrane and Epistemonikos. We searched from January 2010 up to June 2022 and applied no language restrictions. Two independent reviewers appraised the quality of included studies using a quality assessment checklist. To reduce the risk of bias, papers were excluded following discussion between all members of the team. Data were synthesised using descriptive and narrative techniques to identify themes and patterns linked to intervention strategies, targeted behaviours, study settings and study outcomes. Results: We identified 32 reviews conducted between 2010 and 2022. The reviews are mainly of multi-faceted interventions (n = 20) although there are reviews focusing on single strategies (ICT, educational, reminders, local opinion leaders, audit and feedback, social media and toolkits). The majority of reviews report strategies achieving small impacts (normally on processes of care). There is much less evidence that these strategies have shifted patient outcomes. Furthermore, a lot of nuance lies behind these headline findings, and this is increasingly commented upon in the reviews themselves. Discussion: Combined with the two previous reviews, 86 systematic reviews of strategies to increase the implementation of research into clinical practice have been identified. We need to shift the emphasis away from isolating individual and multi-faceted interventions to better understanding and building more situated, relational and organisational capability to support the use of research in clinical practice. This will involve drawing on a wider range of research perspectives (including social science) in primary studies and diversifying the types of synthesis undertaken to include approaches such as realist synthesis which facilitate exploration of the context in which strategies are employed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalImplementation Science
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jan 2024

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of '‘It depends’: What 86 systematic reviews tell us about what strategies to use to support the use of research in clinical practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this