Bridging the ivory towers and the swampy lowlands; increasing the impact of health services research on quality improvement

Int J Qual Health Care. 2014 Feb;26(1):1-5. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzt076. Epub 2013 Oct 17.


Decisions about how to organize and deliver health services are often more complex and seemingly less rational than decisions about what clinical care to provide. The concept of 'Evidence-Based Management', or what might more appropriately be termed 'Evidence-Informed Improvement', does not seem to have captured the hearts and minds of the people responsible for managing health-care provision. Organizational decision-making is more likely to be influenced by political, ideological and pragmatic factors, and by the personal experience of the decision-makers, than by science. Whilst some people would regard the messiness of management decision-making as inevitable, most would accept that decisions could be improved by making greater use of the established health service research evidence, and through a stronger commitment to developing new evidence. Over the last two or more decades the evidence base created by Health Service Researchers has grown in quantity and in quality and yet much of it remains invisible to the people who most need to use it. This paper explores how the disconnect between the traditional 'producers' of research evidence in academia, and the managerial and clinical 'consumers' of that evidence, has contributed to the challenge of embedding an evidence-informed approach to service improvement. The advantages of a closer working relationship between academia and health services are outlined and three approaches to evidence creation and utilization are described which attempt to maximize the influence of scientific evidence on managerial practice.

Keywords: co-creation; evidence informed improvement; improvement science.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Evidence-Based Practice / methods
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement*