Operational research as implementation science: definitions, challenges and research priorities. Monks, T. Implementation science : IS, 11(1):80-81, 6, 2016.
abstract   bibtex   
BACKGROUND: Operational research (OR) is the discipline of using models, either quantitative or qualitative, to aid decision-making in complex implementation problems. The methods of OR have been used in healthcare since the 1950s in diverse areas such as emergency medicine and the interface between acute and community care; hospital performance; scheduling and management of patient home visits; scheduling of patient appointments; and many other complex implementation problems of an operational or logistical nature. DISCUSSION: To date, there has been limited debate about the role that operational research should take within implementation science. I detail three such roles for OR all grounded in upfront system thinking: structuring implementation problems, prospective evaluation of improvement interventions, and strategic reconfiguration. Case studies from mental health, emergency medicine, and stroke care are used to illustrate each role. I then describe the challenges for applied OR within implementation science at the organisational, interventional, and disciplinary levels. Two key challenges include the difficulty faced in achieving a position of mutual understanding between implementation scientists and research users and a stark lack of evaluation of OR interventions. To address these challenges, I propose a research agenda to evaluate applied OR through the lens of implementation science, the liberation of OR from the specialist research and consultancy environment, and co-design of models with service users. Operational research is a mature discipline that has developed a significant volume of methodology to improve health services. OR offers implementation scientists the opportunity to do more upfront system thinking before committing resources or taking risks. OR has three roles within implementation science: structuring an implementation problem, prospective evaluation of implementation problems, and a tool for strategic reconfiguration of health services. Challenges facing OR as implementation science include limited evidence and evaluation of impact, limited service user involvement, a lack of managerial awareness, effective communication between research users and OR modellers, and availability of healthcare data. To progress the science, a focus is needed in three key areas: evaluation of OR interventions, embedding the knowledge of OR in health services, and educating OR modellers about the aims and benefits of service user involvement.
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 title = {Operational research as implementation science: definitions, challenges and research priorities},
 type = {article},
 year = {2016},
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 pages = {80-81},
 volume = {11},
 month = {6},
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 city = {NIHR CLAHRC Wessex, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK. thomas.monks@soton.ac.uk.},
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 notes = {LR: 20160610; JID: 101258411; OID: NLM: PMC4895878; 2016/03/19 [received]; 2016/05/25 [accepted]; 2016/06/06 [aheadofprint]; epublish},
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 abstract = {BACKGROUND: Operational research (OR) is the discipline of using models, either quantitative or qualitative, to aid decision-making in complex implementation problems. The methods of OR have been used in healthcare since the 1950s in diverse areas such as emergency medicine and the interface between acute and community care; hospital performance; scheduling and management of patient home visits; scheduling of patient appointments; and many other complex implementation problems of an operational or logistical nature. DISCUSSION: To date, there has been limited debate about the role that operational research should take within implementation science. I detail three such roles for OR all grounded in upfront system thinking: structuring implementation problems, prospective evaluation of improvement interventions, and strategic reconfiguration. Case studies from mental health, emergency medicine, and stroke care are used to illustrate each role. I then describe the challenges for applied OR within implementation science at the organisational, interventional, and disciplinary levels. Two key challenges include the difficulty faced in achieving a position of mutual understanding between implementation scientists and research users and a stark lack of evaluation of OR interventions. To address these challenges, I propose a research agenda to evaluate applied OR through the lens of implementation science, the liberation of OR from the specialist research and consultancy environment, and co-design of models with service users. Operational research is a mature discipline that has developed a significant volume of methodology to improve health services. OR offers implementation scientists the opportunity to do more upfront system thinking before committing resources or taking risks. OR has three roles within implementation science: structuring an implementation problem, prospective evaluation of implementation problems, and a tool for strategic reconfiguration of health services. Challenges facing OR as implementation science include limited evidence and evaluation of impact, limited service user involvement, a lack of managerial awareness, effective communication between research users and OR modellers, and availability of healthcare data. To progress the science, a focus is needed in three key areas: evaluation of OR interventions, embedding the knowledge of OR in health services, and educating OR modellers about the aims and benefits of service user involvement.},
 bibtype = {article},
 author = {Monks, T},
 journal = {Implementation science : IS},
 number = {1}
}
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