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Engagement in research shown to improve healthcare performance

Date: 16 December 2015

Research, funded by the NIHR HS&DR Programme, has found that when clinicians do research as well as delivering care, there is a likelihood that their organisation’s healthcare performance goes up.

The study, published in BMJ Open (Boaz, et al, 2015), addressed the question does research engagement (by clinicians and organisations) improve healthcare performance? Led by Professor Stephen Hanney of Brunel University London, the research team carried out a three-stage review consisting of: a planning and mapping stage, a focused review, and a wider review of papers identified during the two earlier stages, focusing on how improvements in healthcare might result from the practice of research.

Thirty-three papers were included in the focused review, 28 identified improvements in health services performance. Seven of these papers reported some improvement in health outcomes, with others reporting improved processes of care. The wider review demonstrated that mechanisms such as participatory and action research and collaborative approaches can encourage some progress along the pathway from research engagement towards improved healthcare performance.

In a BMJ rapid response article Professor Hanney commented, “Overall we found a key change in thinking about research engagement and its potential. Initiatives such as the NIHR Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, the Academic Health Science Networks in England, the NIH Road Map for Medical Research in the USA, and the associated development of research networks, have resulted in an increasing formalisation of attempts to ensure that research engagement by clinicians, and by healthcare organisations, leads to improved healthcare performance. The culture and intentions of research funders, and of the research and health service community more generally, are changing: research engagement leading to improved performance is shifting from being a by-product to an intended outcome of research funding.”

The full results of the study were published in Health Services and Delivery Research, 2013, Volume 1, issue 8.