Network and competition effects in the diffusion of innovation in the NHS

Imperial College London

  • Project led by Imperial College London, supported by the Health Foundation’s Efficiency Research Programme.
  • Focusing on consultants performing colorectal cancer surgery and lymph node dissection for breast cancer in acute trusts.
  • Aims to increase understanding of the factors that influence the adoption and diffusion of innovative cancer treatments in hospitals.
  • Will use a multidisciplinary research approach to analyse the effect of factors including collaborative networks, competition between hospitals and attitudes to best practice guidelines.

The Imperial College London project will use a multidisciplinary research approach to explore the factors that influence the take-up of innovative cancer treatments in hospitals. The team will investigate how the adoption and spread of innovation is shaped by factors such as attitudes to best practice guidelines, formal and informal networks, collaboration and competition between hospitals.

The project will focus on two innovations that represent best practice in cancer treatment: laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer and sentinel lymph node dissection for breast cancer. Over three years, the team will:

  • examine published research to identify what is currently known about the medical decision making process and the adoption of innovation in hospitals
  • use surveys to collect quantitative data on consultants’ characteristics, behaviour, attitudes and beliefs, and their formal and informal networks
  • conduct semi-structured interviews with consultants, including individuals identified as fast adopters of innovation and those identified as non-adopters
  • analyse primary and secondary data to understand how competition and networks influence the adoption and spread of innovation

Expected outcomes

The study will contribute to improving the quality and safety of hospital care by:

  • making sure that treatments reflect up-to-date medical knowledge
  • increasing efficiency of hospital care by avoiding unnecessary treatments
  • promoting equity of access to hospital care by ensuring that patients with the same condition receive the same standard of care.

The findings will be used to inform policy on the design and implementation of best practice guidelines and quality standards.

The project is due to be completed by spring 2018.

Contact details

For more information, contact Darshan Patel, Research Manager at the Health Foundation or Marisa Miraldo, Associate Professor in Health Economics at Imperial College London.

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