Background: Implementation science and knowledge translation have developed across multiple disciplines with the common aim of bringing innovations to practice. Numerous implementation frameworks, models, and theories have been developed to target a diverse array of innovations. As such, it is plausible that not all frameworks include the full range of concepts now thought to be involved in implementation. Users face the decision of selecting a single or combining multiple implementation frameworks. To aid this decision, the aim of this review was to assess the comprehensiveness of existing frameworks.
Methods: A systematic search was undertaken in PubMed to identify implementation frameworks of innovations in healthcare published from 2004 to May 2013. Additionally, titles and abstracts from Implementation Science journal and references from identified papers were reviewed. The orientation, type, and presence of stages and domains, along with the degree of inclusion and depth of analysis of factors, strategies, and evaluations of implementation of included frameworks were analysed.
Results: Frameworks were assessed individually and grouped according to their targeted innovation. Frameworks for particular innovations had similar settings, end-users, and 'type' (descriptive, prescriptive, explanatory, or predictive). On the whole, frameworks were descriptive and explanatory more often than prescriptive and predictive. A small number of the reviewed frameworks covered an implementation concept(s) in detail, however, overall, there was limited degree and depth of analysis of implementation concepts. The core implementation concepts across the frameworks were collated to form a Generic Implementation Framework, which includes the process of implementation (often portrayed as a series of stages and/or steps), the innovation to be implemented, the context in which the implementation is to occur (divided into a range of domains), and influencing factors, strategies, and evaluations.
Conclusions: The selection of implementation framework(s) should be based not solely on the healthcare innovation to be implemented, but include other aspects of the framework's orientation, e.g., the setting and end-user, as well as the degree of inclusion and depth of analysis of the implementation concepts. The resulting generic structure provides researchers, policy-makers, health administrators, and practitioners a base that can be used as guidance for their implementation efforts.