Learning from COVID-19

The line between evidence and action is typically not straight. An evidence ecosystem can help to connect the two and drive implementation.

Although demand for evidence from decision-makers was strong during the COVID-19 pandemic some chose to ignore best evidence while others promoted mis- and dis-information. [1] Sometimes evidence standards slipped and small trials and duplicated effort introduced waste. [2] In other words, the COVID-19 evidence response was strong but variable. We can learn from this variation.

Why evidence

Evidence helps us to:

  • Understand the problem and its context
  • Find out what works to improve care
  • Understand the protocols and processes required to deliver improved practices
  • Assess the appropriateness and acceptability for clients
  • Keep up with emerging practice and its likely implications for future care.

Learning from COVID-19 responses

The Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges has analysed our use of evidence before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a focus on four types of decision-makers – government policymakers, professionals, organisational leaders, and citizens – they have now proposed an ideal framework for better use of evidence today and in the future. Read our summary for a brief overview in the context of palliative care.

An ideal national evidence infrastructure

The Global Commission framework calls for more support for the flow of best evidence between producers, intermediaries, and decision-makers. Evidence-support and evidence-implementation structures are core elements of the framework and when combined within a single unit form an evidence ecosystem.

CareSearch is a national ecosystem for palliative care in Australia. Curating, synthesising, and packaging evidence for all decision-makers and using digital technology to link often siloed communities and sectors. Here we look at CareSearch against the framework to help you locate some of the resources available to support your decision-making. 

CareSearch as an evidence-support system

Contextualising the evidence for decision-making requires an understanding of the national context, and coordination and establishment of processes to package evidence, build capacity for evidence use, prompt evidence use, and document evidence use. [1] 

CareSearch packages evidence in ways that makes it understandable to local decision-makers and communicates or disseminates it in appropriate formats.  This can help to promote uptake and combat mis- and dis-information. 

CareSearch supports use of best evidence by providing open access to evidence syntheses and sharing examples of benefits of use and harms of non-use.

In addition, CareSearch gives voice to health professionals' and health consumers' use of evidence in palliative care.

Decision-makers need to know how to acquire, assess, adapt and apply evidence. Because not all evidence is equal, knowing how to distinguish high - from low-quality evidence, and best evidence from ‘other things’, as well as how to get more out of ‘other things’ is important. Here 'other things' refers to inputs that bring with them risks such as a single study or expert opinion. [1]

CareSearch as an evidence-implementation system 

Grounded in an understanding of evidence-related processes, evidence implementation includes synthesising evidence, dissemination to decision-makers, and support for implementation and evaluation. [1]

Identifying new local evidence, synthesising the best evidence globally, and translating global and local evidence into local living evidence products is part of our process. All CareSearch products start with a review group. The CareSearch and palliAGED Evidence syntheses are regularly updated and new evidence continuously screened through our weekly scans of literature. 

CareSearch partners integrating evidence into innovative evidence products

  1. Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges. The Evidence Commission report: A wake-up call and path forward for decision-makers, evidence intermediaries, and impact-oriented evidence producers. Hamilton: McMaster Health Forum, 2022. ISBN 978-1- 927565-31-5
  2. Pearson, H. How COVID broke the evidence pipeline: The pandemic stress-tested the way the world produces evidence — and revealed all the flaws. Nature, May 2021. Available at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01246-x

Last updated 19 October 2022

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