Pathways to research impact in primary healthcare: What do Australian primary healthcare researchers believe works best to facilitate the use of their research findings?
Reed, Richard Lewis
Kalucy, Elizabeth Carment
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Background Primary healthcare researchers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate measurable and lasting improvement in clinical practice and healthcare policy as a result of their work. It is therefore important to understand the effectiveness of the research dissemination strategies used. The aim of this paper is to describe the pathways for research impact that have been achieved across several government-funded primary healthcare projects, and the effectiveness of these methods as perceived by their Chief Investigators. Methods The project used an online survey to collect information about government-funded primary healthcare research projects. Chief Investigators were asked how they disseminated their findings and how this achieved impact in policy and practice. They were also asked to express their beliefs regarding the most effective means of achieving research impact and describe how this occurred. Results Chief Investigators of 17 projects indicated that a number of dissemination strategies were used but that professional networks were the most effective means of promoting uptake of their research findings. Utilisation of research findings for clinical practice was most likely to occur in organisations or among individual practitioners who were most closely associated with the research team, or when research findings were included in educational programmes involving clinical practice. Uptake of both policy- and practice-related research was deemed most successful if intermediary organisations such as formal professional networks were engaged in the research. Successful primary healthcare researchers had developed critical relationships with intermediary organisations within primary healthcare before the initiation of the research and had also involved them in the design. The scale of research impact was influenced by the current policy environment, the type and significance of the results, and the endorsement (or lack thereof) of professional bodies. Conclusions Chief Investigators believed that networks were the most effective means of research dissemination. Researchers who were embedded in professional, clinical or policy-focussed intermediary organisations, or had developed partnerships with clinical services, which had a vested interest in the research findings, were more able to describe a direct impact of their research. This suggests that development of these relationships and engagement of these stakeholders by primary healthcare researchers is a vital step for optimal research utilisation in the primary healthcare setting.
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