Bridging the Gap Between Research and Clinical Practice: Insights from “It depends”

Spread the science

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, a crucial gap persists between the wealth of research findings and their practical application in clinical settings. When people ask me what works, I often give the super annoying answer, “It depends.” And it’s true! Context can be a major facilitator or inhibitor of the research-to-practice gap.

This divide, often resulting in underutilized research, poses significant challenges for public health practitioners striving to implement evidence-based practices. A recent, comprehensive study titled “It depends”: what 86 systematic reviews tell us about what strategies to use to support the use of research in clinical practice delves deep into this issue. Here, we unpack this insightful study.

Understanding the Study

The study is an extensive update and extension of previous reviews, focusing on strategies for implementing research evidence into clinical practice. It involved a detailed search across several databases, considering literature from January 2010 to June 2022, and applying rigorous quality assessment criteria. The aim was to synthesize data from these studies to identify effective strategies for research implementation in clinical settings.

Key Findings and Their Implications

The Prevalence of Multi-faceted Interventions

The study found that multi-faceted interventions (MFIs) were more common than single-strategy approaches. However, the impact of these strategies, particularly on patient outcomes, remains limited. This highlights a critical need for public health practitioners to not only adopt multifaceted strategies but also to rigorously evaluate their impact on patient care.

Nuances in Implementation Strategies

One of the standout revelations from the study is the nuanced nature of implementation strategies. It suggests a shift away from isolated interventions towards a more holistic understanding of the context, relationships, and organizational capacities involved in implementing research in clinical practice.

Diverse Perspectives and Synthesis Approaches

The study advocates for incorporating a broader range of research perspectives, especially from social sciences, into primary studies. This approach, along with diversified synthesis techniques like realist synthesis, can provide deeper insights into the contextual factors influencing the effectiveness of implementation strategies.

Practical Applications for Public Health Practitioners

Embracing Complexity and Context (duh!)

Public health practitioners should embrace the complexity and context-specific nature of implementing research into practice. This involves understanding the unique challenges and opportunities within their own clinical environments and adapting strategies accordingly.

Collaboration and Multi-disciplinary Approaches

Collaboration across disciplines is essential. By engaging with professionals from various backgrounds, practitioners can develop more robust, contextually relevant strategies for implementing research findings.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

The field of implementation science is dynamic, and practitioners must be committed to continuous learning and adaptation. This means staying updated with the latest research, evaluating the outcomes of implemented strategies, and being willing to adjust approaches based on new evidence.


The study “It depends” provides valuable insights into the complexities of translating research into clinical practice. It underscores the need for contextually informed, multi-faceted approaches and a deeper engagement with diverse research perspectives. For public health practitioners, this study reminds us to embrace complexity, collaborate across disciplines, and remain committed to continuous learning and adaptation in the pursuit of evidence-based healthcare.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, bridging the gap between research and practice remains a critical challenge. This study offers a roadmap for navigating this challenge, providing practical guidance and inspiring a more nuanced approach to implementing research in clinical practice.

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