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Healthcare Innovation

Research

CHIR produces research which supports practitioners, policy-makers, and other stakeholders facing the complex challenges of embedding healthcare innovations; that is, implementing innovations sustainably and at scale.

Our research aims to develop the evidence base for improving the sustainable implementation and spread of healthcare innovations by identifying generalisable aspects and mechanisms of the way such innovations are adopted, adapted and embedded across different contexts. Our work connects the introduction of innovations to the shifting work patterns and organizational changes required to scale and sustain them in practice.

By drawing on the expertise of two highly ranked Schools at City, University of London - Bayes Business School and the School of and Psychological Health Sciences – the Centre provides the interdisciplinary approach needed to analyse, evaluate and improve this dynamic process of embedding innovation. We are working across a range of academic fields such as health sciences, organisational studies, implementation research and social sciences and deploy of a range of methodological tools, including both the tracking of innovation journeys over time, and cross-sectional comparison of innovations.

Diagram showing the integration of Health Sciences, Implementation research, Organisational studies and Social Sciences to form Health Innovation Research.

Our work involves multiple projects which reflect the major themes of our approach as being;

  • Evidence-based and interdisciplinary;
  • Understanding the processes of implementing and spreading innovations;
  • Encompassing different types of innovation across multiple levels of healthcare systems;
  • Addressing different external and organizational contexts for innovation spread and implementation;
  • Assessing patient and public involvement in embedding innovations.

Projects

A selection of current projects are outlined below:

Evidence-based and interdisciplinary

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Systematic reviews conceptualising implementation depth and innovation diffusion

Healthcare innovations are often not sustained after adoption and vary in their effectiveness when scaled-up across different sites. Diverging research strands focus on either implementation or scale-up/diffusion. These strands typically have different analysis levels, focus on different implementation phases and are conducted in different research fields, e.g., health research (implementation), organisation studies (diffusion).

This systematic review aims at synthesising evidence on implementation depth and innovation diffusion published in these diverging research fields. It is expected to shed light on the blind spot in our understanding of how to achieve both, the widespread and sustainable implementation of innovations, or the ‘embedding of innovations’.


Innovation processes

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Review of spread and adoption approaches across the AHSN Network

In recent years, the rate of adoption of innovations in healthcare practice has increased. However, spreading such innovations at a large scale beyond an initial pilot site is still a challenge. There is a lack of understanding of what makes innovations spread successfully across different contexts. The Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) as key innovation arm of NHS England are aligning key stakeholders together for spreading innovations in health and social care at the regional level. The study will investigate and determine lessons for spread and adoption of innovations from an analysis of the different approaches developed and applied by the 15 AHSNs in England.

Understanding the different approaches of spread of innovation among AHSNs will provide useful guidance at the operational level for change agents within AHSNs, at the senior staff level for determining capacity and resources required for spread, for health and social care staff in receipt of support from AHSNs, and the wider academic community by investigating how relevant theory has been operationalised in real world settings.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the AHSNs were changing their approaches to rapidly implement and spread innovations in response to the pandemic. The study will also explore the approaches to rapid implementation and spread taken by AHSNs during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide formative feedback to AHSNs to support their spread work during the course of COVID-19 and gather early insights on what works in rapid implementation.

The study is conducted together with Wessex AHSN and South West AHSN and is co-funded by he AHSN Network and the NHS England Accelerated Access Collaborative.


Young woman in a white coat and blue surgical gloves using a virtual reality headset.

Learning from adoption and Implementation processes of digital technologies across the UCLPartners Innovation Network

The Academic Health Science Network UCLPartners has set up a network of staff members at 23 NHS trusts who are leading on innovation in their trusts with the aim to support and improve the adoption and implementation of innovations in these trusts. Some trusts have developed standardised processes that other trusts could learn from with the aim to optimise this process across the network.

This qualitative study aims to explore effects and determinants of the adoption and implementation process of digital innovations in the NHS trusts represented in the UCLPartners Innovation Network.


Close-up of man's hands typing on a laptop, with a digital overlay of a file system diagram.

The role of implementation process in shaping technology innovation outcomes in healthcare

The outcome of a technological innovation is dependent upon the way in which the innovation is implemented. The process of implementation interacts with other contextual factors, at multiple levels, and also with the innovation itself. This study aims to contribute to a more systematic and integrated understanding of the role of the implementation process for healthcare innovations. It employs a two-phased in-depth analysis investigating 34 technology implementation journeys across 12 NHS trusts.

In phase I, through 121 interviews we unpack rich implementation process dynamics within each of the specific organizational cases. In phase II, by applying Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), we identify which configurations of characteristics of the innovation, the implementation process and the organisational context are linked to innovation outcomes.


Different types of innovation

Woman's arm with electric home blood-pressure monitor in use.

Evaluation of the UCLPartners Proactive Care Programme

As part of NHS England's COVID-19 recovery plan, UCLPartners has developed a series of Proactive Care frameworks combined with comprehensive implementation support to help people living with long term conditions stay well at home. They are underpinned by four key principles: virtual by default, mobilising the wider primary care workforce, step change in self-management, and optimising use of digital tools.

A number of areas across England are underway with implementation of the frameworks. The aim of this evaluation is to examine the initial impact of the Proactive Care Programme on the management of long-term conditions in primary care in the early implementation sites. This study is co-funded by UCLPartners.


Black man with a headset at a computer in a call centre.

Rapid review on critical success factors for implementing remote triage services

This rapid review aims at synthesising the scientific evidence on key practice lessons for implementing remote triage services to inform the roll-out of the new NHS 111 First service in England.

We will compile key concepts and metrics for implementation success, major implementation barriers and facilitators and take an in-depth look into selected international cases of telephone helpline services in Europe.

This study is co-funded by UCLPartners.


Three different types of facemask (PPE) handing from hooks on a wall.

Role of medical professionals in the development of emergency guidance regulating the allocation of healthcare resources during the COVID-19 pandemic

This study uses a qualitative approach (interviews) to investigate the role of medical professionals in the development of emergency guidance regulating the allocation of healthcare resources (PPE, human resource, patient management) during the first phase of the pandemic in England (March-June 2020).

The goal of our study is to understand the allocation process during the first phase of the pandemic to improved healthcare provision in future phases of the pandemic or in the event of a public health crisis of a similar scale.


Close-up of hands of a young white woman in a white coat, holding a smartphone. She has red painted nails and a stethoscope draped around her neck.

Spread of a social prescribing tool in the NHS

GP practices in the UK face significant increases in workload due to a combination of staff shortages and the escalating pressures posed by chronic conditions and illness. In response to this growing demand, the NHS long-term plan mandates much greater use of digitally-based services in the coming period. The widespread popularity of social media as a means of exchanging information also indicates the potential acceptability and benefits of new digital services for patients.

The primary aim of the study is to understand how such a digitally-based service – a social prescribing tool, is being adopted and applied in GP practices by multiple health professionals working in the practice. Greater understanding of the factors enabling or constraining effective adoption and implementation will be of benefit to the developers and users of this particular service by helping to improve its further development, and supporting take up amongst patient groups.

The study will also serve a wider need in the UK healthcare community by showing how an innovative tool can be more effectively embedded into existing healthcare organizations and practices to secure significant benefits for staff and patients.


Diagram of a spine.

Diffusion of "Startback" triage screening tool

The Startback tool is an innovative triage screening tool. It is developed for GPs and physiotherapists to help assess patients with lower back pain, stratify them into low, medium, or high risk categories, and provide them with matched treatments. We follow the journey of the tool diffusion from 2015 to 2018, and show the variation in different professional groups’ responses (GPs, physiotherapists) to the innovation and the way it is adapted. In doing so, we are able to demonstrate dynamics of distributed leadership in the spread of innovations and the interplay between innovation adaptation and professional practice.

This project not only contributes to the literature on innovation diffusion in public service, but also provides valuable implications for policy and practice.


Innovation in different contexts

Indian smiling woman holding a toddler in her arm

Investigating the potential of a community-based music intervention to support maternal mental health in South India: A scoping study

Mental health problems during pregnancy and after birth (the perinatal period) affect the mother, can also have long-term adverse effects on her child. Perinatal mental health problems are a particular challenge in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where they can be at least twice as frequent as in higher-income countries. Research in The Gambia worked to co-develop with local women’s music groups a Community Health Intervention through Musical Engagement (CHIME)to support antenatal mental health. With careful consideration of cultural context, an adaptation of CHIME should be possible in contexts like India where music is already an integral part of the traditions around health.

The purpose of this pump-priming project is to investigate the potential of a community-based music intervention for perinatal mental health in South India. Within this qualitative scoping study, interviews, and focus groups with experts in perinatal mental health and traditional musical practices in South India will be conducted. Through a thematic analysis, intersections between maternal care and traditional music practices will be identified. This work will lead to the formation of an interdisciplinary team across the UK and South India and suggested adaptations and potential challenges of implementing CHIME in this new context.

Female Chinese nurse holding up a swaddled new-born while another female nurse makes a bed in the background.

System innovation scale-up in China

A system level innovation - Medical Alliance (MA) – was established throughout China in recent years following the 2009 health care reform, and has received considerable attention from policy makers, academics and international development organisations. MAs are collaborative alliances involving the integration of primary and community care organisations with secondary and tertiary care hospital providers.

The objective of MAs is to promote the usage of the newly established Community Health Centres (CHCs) and to reduce demand for hospital-based secondary and tertiary care to achieve more effective healthcare delivery. However, there are significant obstacles to adopting and scaling up such a large-scale change or system innovation. This project allow us to gain an ‘insider look’ at a few MA models across three different cities in China to examine the scale up and spread of such complex system-level innovation.


Young black African woman wearing a colourful hair-wrap, standing outside rough-made building.

Contextualised adaptation of social care innovations spreading from high to low- and middle-income countries

Given the cost and time involved in developing and testing new interventions, low- and middle-income countries are adopting proven interventions from elsewhere. The challenge remains how to adapt and implement such interventions to fit the local context. This project develops a new practical implementation framework to support the adaptation of social work interventions in low- and middle-income countries through a scoping review and workshops with international experts and local practitioners in South Africa and Tanzania.

The framework is expected to allow for the development of practical guidance and tools targeting social care practitioners to facilitate and evaluate the adaptation process in the future. The study is co-funded by UKRI-GCRF.


Cityscape from above distorted into the shape of a globe in a blue sky.

Understanding external implementation context – A best-fit framework synthesis

Variations in the external context such as the political and funding environment, cultural context, location, historical developments or population demographics can influence implementation outcomes but this influence is little understood. We aim to develop a framework conceptualising the influence of external contextual factors on the implementation of health and social care interventions. The framework is developed based on a two-stage systematic review following the ‘best fit’ framework synthesis approach.

The first stage of the review examines existing frameworks, models, and theories on external contextual factors and their influence on implementation from a variety of sectors and disciplines such as health and social care, education, environmental studies, and international development.

The resulting meta-framework is then tested and refined in the second review stage by synthesising evidence from empirical studies focusing on the implementation of health and social care interventions that spread within or across countries. The final framework can be used to identify factors explaining the decline and variability in effectiveness of interventions but also the prospects of implementation success when spreading interventions within or across countries.


Emergency ambulance speeding past, with movement blur.

The influence of external context on the implementation of the London Ambulance Service’s Maternity Screening and Action Tool

This spread of an innovation often results in large variation of how well the innovation works in different areas. There is only a limited understanding of what role the characteristics of these different places or external contexts (e.g. political and financial context, geography and location, demographics of the service population, networks between service providers, historical developments) play when implementing an innovation in different areas.

This study will explore the impact of external context characteristics on implementation outcome using the Maternity Screening and Action Tool (maternity card) developed by the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust (LAS) as an example.

The LAS introduced the maternity card as a prompt for frontline staff to improve the delivery of emergency maternity care. The card was rolled out across London in 2016. This qualitative realist evaluation study aims at understanding what it is about the external context that make the maternity card work in different areas in London.

The study is expected to result in a middle range theory formulated as context-mechanism-outcome construct(s) which can inform the spread and implementation of similar innovations. The results of the study are also intended to inform the refinement of a conceptual framework on the influence of external implementation context which is currently being developed.


Innovation and patients and the public

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Scoping reviews on how innovations can tackle health inequalities

This rapid scoping review has two parts. The first part will identify key areas for targeting innovations to tackle inequalities in the English NHS and amendable factors within the NHS that could potentially reduce health inequalities.

The second part will identify needs and strategies targeting inequalities in the adoption and spread of (digital) healthcare innovations.

This study is co-funded by UCLPartners.


Mixed group of people talking around a table.

Role of patient and public involvement in embedding innovations in healthcare – A scoping review

Substantial evidence exists regarding patient and public involvement in research, but it is less clear what we know about patient and public involvement in the later stages of the innovation journey when innovations are implemented and spread in healthcare practice. This scoping review aims at identifying and mapping the currently available evidence regarding the role, influence or impact of patient and public involvement during different healthcare innovation stages from research and development via implementation, to scale-up and spread. Such mapping will identify current evidence gaps to derive new research objectives.