Translating evidence into practice: a longitudinal qualitative exploration of allied health decision-making

Jennifer White, Kellie Grant, Mitchell Sarkies, Terrence Haines, Evidence Translation in Allied Health (EviTAH) Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Health policy and management decisions rarely reflect research evidence. As part of a broader randomized controlled study exploring implementation science strategies we examined how allied health managers respond to two distinct recommendations and the evidence that supports them.

Methods: A qualitative study nested in a larger randomized controlled trial. Allied health managers across Australia and New Zealand who were responsible for weekend allied health resource allocation decisions towards the provision of inpatient service to acute general medical and surgical wards, and subacute rehabilitation wards were eligible for inclusion. Consenting participants were randomized to (1) control group or (2) implementation group 1, which received an evidence-based policy recommendation document guiding weekend allied health resource allocation decisions, or (3) implementation group 2, which received the same policy recommendation document guiding weekend allied health resource allocation decisions with support from a knowledge broker. As part of the trial, serial focus groups were conducted with a sample of over 80 allied health managers recruited to implementation group 2 only. A total 17 health services participated in serial focus groups according to their allocated randomization wave, over a 12-month study period. The primary outcome was participant perceptions and data were analysed using an inductive thematic approach with constant comparison. Thematic saturation was achieved.

Results: Five key themes emerged: (1) Local data is more influential than external evidence; (2) How good is the evidence and does it apply to us? (3) It is difficult to change things; (4) Historically that is how we have done things; and (5) What if we get complaints?

Conclusions: This study explored implementation of strategies to bridge gaps in evidence-informed decision-making. Results provide insight into barriers, which prevent the implementation of evidence-based practice from fully and successfully occurring, such as attitudes towards evidence, limited skills in critical appraisal, and lack of authority to promote change. In addition, strategies are needed to manage the risk of confirmation biases in decision-making processes. 

Trial registration This trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) (ACTRN12618000029291). Universal Trial Number (UTN): U1111-1205-2621.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • allied health
  • evidence base practice
  • implementation science
  • qualitative


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