The international spread of Academic Health Science Centres: a scoping review and the case of policy transfer to England

Health Policy. 2014 Sep;117(3):382-91. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2014.07.005. Epub 2014 Jul 10.


Academic Health Science Centres (AHSCs) have been a key feature of the North American healthcare landscape for many years, and the term is becoming more widely used internationally. The defining feature of these complex organisations is a tripartite mission of delivering high quality research, medical education and clinical care. The biomedical innovations developed in AHSCs are often well documented, but less is known about the policy and organisational processes which enable the translation of research into patient care. This paper has two linked purposes. Firstly, we present a scoping review of the literature which explores the managerial, political and cultural perspectives of AHSCs. The literature is largely normative with little social science theory underpinning commentary and descriptive case studies. Secondly, we contribute to addressing this gap by applying a policy transfer framework to the English case to examine how AHSC policy has spread internationally. We conclude by suggesting a research agenda on AHSCs using the relevant literatures of policy transfer, professional/managerial relations and boundary theory, and highlighting three key messages for policy makers: (1) competing policy incentives for AHSCs should be minimised; (2) no single AHSC model will fit all settings; (3) AHSC networks operate internationally and this should be encouraged.

Keywords: Academic Health Science Centre; England; Policy Transfer; Scoping Review; Translational Research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers* / organization & administration
  • England
  • Health Services Administration
  • Internationality*
  • Models, Organizational
  • Policy Making*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / methods