While significant steps have been made in all aspects in health research
While significant steps have been made in all aspects in health research, the incorporation of research evidence into healthcare decision making has been marginal. Recognising the importance of academic theories calls for new expectations in health care research. In my opinion researchers and institutions should use these theories if they are to realise the potential of optimising the delivery of health care and services.
In recent years a number of researchers have pushed for a greater role for the use of academic theories in order to strengthen the practice of research. Theory offers many advantages to the health services researcher. Theory helps to identify the appropriate study question and target group; clarify methods and measurement issues; provide more detailed and informative descriptions on characteristics of the intervention and supportive implementation conditions; uncover unintended effects; assist in analysis and interpretation of results; and, the successful application of an intervention to different settings. Ref 3.
Although the potential benefits of academic theories are plain to see, there are a number of reasons as to why there has been a failure to integrate theory into research. Random clinical controlled trials have discouraged the use of academic theory in health service research.
The United Kingdom Medical Research Council recently proposed a framework for the development and evaluation of randomized control trials for complex interventions where theory is viewed as valuable in assisting hypothesis development and steering decisions on strategic design issues. Ref 4.
A theory driven approach in health research is not without its challenges however, due to modest advances towards implementing research evidence into healthcare decisions and practice, a theory driven approach is well worth the effort in my opinion. If this approach is utilised correctly then the implications for this are great. It will impact health care services research and training practices for the better.