Ensuring patients benefit from the latest medical and technical advances remains a major challenge, with rational-linear and reductionist approaches to translating evidence into practice proving inefficient and ineffective. Complexity thinking, which emphasises interconnectedness and unpredictability, offers insights to inform evidence translation theories and strategies. Drawing on detailed insights into complex micro-systems, this research aimed to advance empirical and theoretical understanding of the reality of making and sustaining improvements in complex healthcare systems.
Using analytical auto-ethnography, including documentary analysis and literature review, we assimilated learning from 5 years of observation of 22 evidence translation projects (UK). We used a grounded theory approach to develop substantive theory and a conceptual framework. Results were interpreted using complexity theory and ‘simple rules’ were identified reflecting the practical strategies that enhanced project progress.
The framework for Successful Healthcare Improvement From Translating Evidence in complex systems (SHIFT-Evidence) positions the challenge of evidence translation within the dynamic context of the health system. SHIFT-Evidence is summarised by three strategic principles, namely (1) ‘act scientifically and pragmatically’ – knowledge of existing evidence needs to be combined with knowledge of the unique initial conditions of a system, and interventions need to adapt as the complex system responds and learning emerges about unpredictable effects; (2) ‘embrace complexity’ – evidence-based interventions only work if related practices and processes of care within the complex system are functional, and evidence-translation efforts need to identify and address any problems with usual care, recognising that this typically includes a range of interdependent parts of the system; and (3) ‘engage and empower’ – evidence translation and system navigation requires commitment and insights from staff and patients with experience of the local system, and changes need to align with their motivations and concerns. Twelve associated ‘simple rules’ are presented to provide actionable guidance to support evidence translation and improvement in complex systems.
By recognising how agency, interconnectedness and unpredictability influences evidence translation in complex systems, SHIFT-Evidence provides a tool to guide practice and research. The ‘simple rules’ have potential to provide a common platform for academics, practitioners, patients and policymakers to collaborate when intervening to achieve improvements in healthcare.
Julie E. Reed, Cathy Howe, Cathal Doyle and Derek Bell. BMC Medicine201816:92 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1076-9
You might also like...
Change in a system as complex as health and care is hard. We'll share fresh insights on this challenge at our annual event.
Darshal Patel reflects on the lessons that behavioural insights offer to health care improvement.
The Health Foundation selects three research projects for programme exploring the use of behavioural insights in health care
The programme supports research that designs, tests and evaluates behavioural interventions that can improve efficiency and r...
Health Foundation @HealthFdn
Data analytics enables new information flows to and from patients and the public. This helps people make better-in… https://t.co/8dO4tZsA6DFollow us on Twitter
Work with us
We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.View current vacancies
The Q Community
Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.Find out more