The Evolving Role of the CLAHRC in the Use of Evidence to Improve Care and Outcomes in Service Settings

If we are to use public funds to support research, there is an assumption that the outcome of that research will be improvements to the service. This exchange, however is problematic. CLAHRCs are set up to address this interface in a particular way, namely to evaluate service interventions. As well as generating new knowledge for the system, there is a wider aspiration of building a system-wide ‘habit’ of using evidence to drive service change and evaluating the output.

As part of the consideration of how CLAHRC West Midlands evolves, we would like to hear readers’ views as to how well it has done and what it should do in the future.

The use of evidence to improve practice in service settings has demand and supply side factors. The service has to want to use evidence, be supported to use evidence, and have the capacity to make changes in response. On the research ‘supply’ side, there has to be a suitable body of existing evidence, researchers have to have the skills and capacity to develop suitable research methods and to convey the outcomes in a usable form.

Even if all these factors co-exist, barriers, such as changed external environments, resistance to change, and timing issues, can thwart the exchange.

CLAHRC WM has tried to address this in a number of ways. It has created new roles:

  • Embedded posts: academic researchers jointly funded by service and research institutions, working on agreed projects within a service setting
  • Diffusion fellows: experienced practitioners supported to undertake research in a service area.

Patients and the public are central to driving the direction of research: their involvement at all stages of the research cycle means that topics are relevant to them and meet their needs. In addition, CLAHRC WM has employed a range of dissemination methods, both traditional and innovative, to share research findings. These include publishing summaries of evaluations completed, running workshops and, indeed, regular publication of this articles in this blog.

Service evaluation is not the only form of research being undertaken within service institutions, nor is CLAHRC WM the only source of evaluation support. With the current focus on integration, there is a question as to how CLAHRC WM could be better integrated within the service’s own research and development strategies. However, one has to be mindful that the budget for CLAHRC WM is tiny compared to the billions of health care spent in the West Midlands each year and therefore it has to take care to target its resources.

In future blogs we will look more closely at some of these issues, with interviews with those occupying embedded/ diffusion roles. Meanwhile, we would welcome your views and thoughts as to how CLAHRC WM should evolve in this regard, so please comment or get in touch; it would be much appreciated.

— Denise McLellan

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