Knowledge Translation

Knowledge translation is known by a number of different terms such as research utilisation, implementation science or evidence uptake. It is a multidimensional concept that looks at the mechanisms, methods and factors that influence how evidence specifically, and knowledge more generally, is moved into use in the health system. [1] The interest in this field reflects a growing awareness that research by itself will not improve outcomes for patients, and that there can be substantial gaps between what we know from the research evidence and what we do in the real world. [2]

Knowledge translation looks at the processes that affect how evidence is generated, communicated and utilised as well as barriers to the transfer and uptake of this knowledge. It pays particular attention to the actual contexts in which the knowledge will be used. [3] By determining the specific needs and issues of potential users of knowledge, more relevant and effective ways of researching, communicating and measuring health activities can be developed. [4]

Palliative care faces particular issues with regard to the translation of evidence from research to use. Its multidisciplinary nature means that there are different research paradigms and frameworks. There are challenges in defining outcomes and in establishing outcome measures. Palliative care is provided in many different settings adding to the difficulty in developing effective communication and dissemination strategies. Most health professionals will require some understanding and familiarity with palliative care practice. Many palliative care providers do not work only in palliative care, meaning that palliative care research competes with the findings of other fields and specialties. There may also be resistance to changing practice and a belief that reliance on evidence will undermine the care concepts that have driven the development of palliative care. By recognising these considerations, we can start to develop processes and approaches that support change and development in the field and enhance patient and family outcomes.

  1. Sudsawad P. Knowledge translation: Introduction to models, strategies, and measures. Austin TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research; 2007. 
  2. Davis D, Evans M, Jadad A, Perrier L, Rath D, Ryan D, et al. The case for knowledge translation: shortening the journey from evidence to effect. BMJ. 2003 Jul 5;327(7405):33-5.
  3. Greenhalgh T, Robert G, Macfarlane F, Bate P, Kyriakidou O. Diffusion of innovations in service organizations: systematic review and recommendations. Milbank Q. 2004;82(4):581-629.
  4. Grol R, Wesling M, Eccles M, editors. Improving patient care: The implementation of change in clinical practice. Oxford: Elsevier; 2005.

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Last updated 18 January 2017