Research translation the key to better patient care, symposium told
Jillian Skinner
The Hon. Jillian Skinner MP, New South Wales Minister for Health

Event wrap: 26 November 2015.

Strong connections between researchers and policy makers are a key to ensuring findings are translated into better patient care, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner told a recent symposium in Sydney.

Opening the NHMRC Symposium Research Translation, held jointly with CIPHER (The Centre for Informing Policy in Health with Evidence from Research), Mrs Skinner said there was an increasing focus on translational research in NSW.

“We recognise the need for strong connections between policy makers and researchers and the translation of results of their discoveries into better care for patients,” she said.

Initiatives such as the Research Hub Strategy, which aimed to promote collaboration and translation of health research, were helping to embed research into Local Health Districts and the Ambulance service, she said.

“Across all our health districts in NSW, researchers, clinicians and policy makers are working together to achieve the same end ‒ to achieve better patient outcomes.”

The value of research

Federal Department of Health Secretary Martin Bowles PSM, also addressing the conference, said the increasing demands on Medicare and the health system had the potential to restrict research within the health system itself.

“Research sometimes seems an added cost. The urgent gets in the way of the important.”

However, he said research could help solve problems and “reboot” the health system, making it more patient-centred.

“Our aim must be to embed data, analytics, evaluation and research into every-day delivery of care in the health system,” he said. “I want to emphasise that effective translation of research into healthcare provides better health and wellbeing and better value for money.”

Bridging the divide

Professor Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the UK’s influential health think tank, The Kings Fund, told the symposium that there was a gulf between the worlds of research and policy.

But he outlined some of the ways the Fund was able to bridge that gap.

“Translators and knowledge brokers have an important role in bridging these two worlds, and a large part of the work of the Kings Fund is occupying this middle ground,” he said..

The Fund’s independence was crucial in enabling it to carry out its work, he said.

“It gives us whatever influence we are able to have in the complex world of policy”.

The Fund worked in a number of ways with policy makers both publicly and privately to communicate health research and analysis and promote its translation into policy or programs, he said.

Fast-tracking translation

Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman  suggested that co-production ‒ researchers and policy makers working together in active partnership to solve problems ‒ could be an important way to fast-track translation.

While it was not always easy, she said co-production would ensure research was relevant to policy as well as giving policy makers greater ownership of findings.

“I believe greater focus here would pay really big dividends,” she said.

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