It's not that the only problem in running the health system is an information gap. And research will never be all you need to make a decision, or the only factor you consider. But research can help you make decisions, evaluate their feasibility and potential impact.
The Canadian Health Services Research Foundation has developed a self-assessment tool for decision makers to help them define and assess their organization's use of research. First tested in Calgary in September 2000, it is still in development. Essentially a questionnaire, the purpose of the self-assessment tool is to let decision makers identify strengths and weaknesses in research use and give ideas for how to use research more effectively in the future.
The self-assessment is divided into four areas - how you acquire evidence (Can the organization find the evidence it needs?), how you assess it (Can you assess whether research is reliable and high-quality and whether it is relevant and applicable?), how you adapt its format (Can you present the evidence to decision makers in a useful format, which synthesizes recommendations?) and how you apply it in making decisions (Do you have the skills, structures, processes and corporate culture to promote and use research evidence in decision-making?).
Because this is an organizational assessment, it's best if a cross-organizational team - perhaps including senior managers, members of the board and front-line workers - does it collectively. It's not a test; there are no right or wrong answers. But used properly it should be a catalyst for discussion on research use: what the organization is doing right and what more it needs to do.
More information is available from: Michelle Campbell, assistant director, knowledge transfer, Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, (613) 728-2238, firstname.lastname@example.org
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