Evaluating research investment and impact at a regional Australian Hospital and Health Service: a programme theory and conceptual framework

Edelman, Alexandra, Brown, Amy, Pain, Tilley, Larkins, Sarah, and Harvey, Gillian (2020) Evaluating research investment and impact at a regional Australian Hospital and Health Service: a programme theory and conceptual framework. Health Research Policy and Systems, 18 (30).

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Background: Health systems in Australia and worldwide are increasingly expected to conduct research and quality improvement activities in addition to delivering clinical care and training health professionals. This study aims to inform a research impact evaluation at a regional Australian Hospital and Health Service by developing a programme theory showing how research investment is expected to have impact.

Methods: This qualitative study, representing the first phase of a larger mixed methods research impact evaluation at the Townsville Hospital and Health Service (THHS), adopts a realist-informed design involving the development of a programme theory. Data were obtained between February and May 2019 from strategic documentation and interviews with six current and former health service executives and senior employees. Inductive themes were integrated into a conceptual framework to visually represent the programme theory.

Results: Research at THHS has developed organically as the service has matured into a regional tertiary referral service serving a diverse rural and remote population across northern Queensland. Throughout this journey, individual THHS leaders often adopted a research development mantle despite disincentives arising from a performance-driven reporting and activity-based funding service context. Impact expectations from research investment at THHS were identified in the categories of enhanced research activity and capacity among clinicians, and improved clinical practice, health workforce capability and stability, and patient and population health. Seven contextual factors were identified as potential enablers or obstacles to these impact expectations and ambitions.

Conclusions: By identifying both relevant impact types and key contextual factors, this study offers programme theory to inform a planned research impact evaluation at THHS. The conceptual framework may be useful in other regionally based health service settings. More broadly, there are opportunities for future research to test and refine hybrid versions of linear and realist research impact evaluation models that combine resource-intensive, theory-driven approaches with policy practicality.

Item ID: 62463
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1478-4505
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Funders: Townsville Hospital and Health Service
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2020 23:33
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420311 Health systems @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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