Background: Many advances in health care fail to reach patients. Implementation science is the study of novel approaches to mitigate this evidence-to-practice gap.
Methods: The American Thoracic Society (ATS) created a multidisciplinary ad hoc committee to develop a research statement on implementation science in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. The committee used an iterative consensus process to define implementation science and review the use of conceptual frameworks to guide implementation science for the pulmonary, critical care, and sleep community and to explore how professional medical societies such as the ATS can promote implementation science.
Results: The committee defined implementation science as the study of the mechanisms by which effective health care interventions are either adopted or not adopted in clinical and community settings. The committee also distinguished implementation science from the act of implementation. Ideally, implementation science should include early and continuous stakeholder involvement and the use of conceptual frameworks (i.e., models to systematize the conduct of studies and standardize the communication of findings). Multiple conceptual frameworks are available, and we suggest the selection of one or more frameworks on the basis of the specific research question and setting. Professional medical societies such as the ATS can have an important role in promoting implementation science. Recommendations for professional societies to consider include: unifying implementation science activities through a single organizational structure, linking front-line clinicians with implementation scientists, seeking collaborations to prioritize and conduct implementation science studies, supporting implementation science projects through funding opportunities, working with research funding bodies to set the research agenda in the field, collaborating with external bodies responsible for health care delivery, disseminating results of implementation science through scientific journals and conferences, and teaching the next generation about implementation science through courses and other media.
Conclusions: Implementation science plays an increasingly important role in health care. Through support of implementation science, the ATS and other professional medical societies can work with other stakeholders to lead this effort.
Keywords: implementation research; implementation science; knowledge translation; medical society; quality improvement.