What We've Got Here Is Failure to Communicate

Many health care systems are not using research-based evidence

(RxWiki News) A recent article in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology says that health care systems are failing to apply evidence from studies to inform their decision-making.

According to Dr. Sharon Straus, a geriatrician and director of knowledge translation at St. Michael's Hosptial, this failure in knowledge translation leads to inefficiencies, reduced lifespan, and diminished quality of life.

Dr. Straus and her team are leading experts in the field of knowledge translation, an area of study that focuses on closing the gap between known information gained through research and the application of that information in standard practice.

According to the article, approximately 55 percent of adult patients do not receive the kind of care that is recommended based on the evidence that was discovered through research studies.

For example, past studies have found that only two-thirds of stroke patients, and only 40 percent of osteoporosis patients, get appropriate treatment. Other studies have shown certain antibiotics to be ineffective in treating children for upper respiratory tract infections, yet those antibiotics continue to be over-prescribed.

Dr. Straus acknowledges that there are numerous obstacles to knowledge translation, including cost, education, scarce resources for health care institutions, and becuase of the the large quantity of new findings it is very difficult to get the new information to those who can apply it, and that the data is sometimes contradicting. She also notices that not all new research-based evidence can be put into practice right away. New evidence must go through a thorough process that will build its validity as safe, useful, and appropriate.

Dr. Straus recommends that patients, the public, clinicians, and policy makers work together to prioritize the undertaking of knowledge translation in order to effectively use the scarce resources available to health care systems.

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Review Date: 
January 19, 2011