The use of implementation science theories, models, and frameworks in implementation research for medicinal products: A scoping review

Health Res Policy Syst. 2024 Jan 29;22(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s12961-024-01102-0.


Background: The uptake, adoption and integration of new medicines and treatment regimens within healthcare delivery can take a decade or more. Increasingly, implementation science (IS) research is being used to bridge this gap between the availability of new therapeutic evidence and its actual application in clinical practice. Little is known, however, about the quality of IS research in this area, including the degree to which theories, models and frameworks (TMFs) are being used. The objective of this study was to conduct a scoping review of the use of TMFs in implementation research involving medicinal products.

Methods: A search was conducted for English language abstracts and manuscripts describing the application of TMFs in IS studies for medicinal products. Eligible publications were those published between 1 January 1974 and 12 December 2022. All records were screened at the title and abstract stage; included full-text papers were abstracted using data extraction tables designed for the study. Study quality was appraised using the Implementation Research Development Tool.

Results: The initial scoping search identified 2697 publications, of which 9 were ultimately eligible for inclusion in the review. Most studies were published after 2020 and varied in their objectives, design and therapeutic area. Most studies had sample sizes of fewer than 50 participants, and all focused on the post-marketing phase of drug development. The TMF most frequently used was the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). Although most studies applied all TMF domains, TMF use was limited to instrument development and/or qualitative analysis. Quality appraisals indicated the need for engaging patients and other stakeholders in the implementation research, reporting on the cost of implementation strategies, and evaluating the unintended consequences of implementation efforts.

Conclusions: We found that few IS studies involving medicinal products reported using TMFs. Those that did encompassed a wide variety of therapeutic indications and medicinal products; all were in the post-marketing phase and involved limited application of the TMFs. Researchers should consider conducting IS in earlier phases of drug development and integrating the TMFs throughout the research process. More consistent and in-depth use of TMFs may help advance research in this area.

Keywords: Dissemination; Drug development; Frameworks; Implementation science; Implementation strategies; Knowledge translation; Models; Pharmaceuticals; Theories.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Implementation Science*