The organisational benefits of a strong research culture in a health service

Dr Katherine Harding1, Prof Nicholas Taylor1,2, Ms Lauren Lynch1, Dr Judi Porter1,3, Ms Anita Wilton1

1Eastern Health, Box Hill, Australia, 2La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia, 3Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Aim: A ‘research culture’ within health services is one in which evidence is valued, clinicians are encouraged to participate in research activities, research training opportunities are available, achievements are recognised and there is investment in research activity. Investment in these areas has been shown to increase academic outputs.  This systematic review of the literature aimed to determine whether there a strong research culture is also associated with improved organisational performance outcomes.

Methods: Key health databases were searched, combining the key concepts of “organisational performance” and “research culture”.  Inclusion criteria applied, and study quality appraised. Data were extracted from selected studies and the results were synthesised descriptively.

Results: Eight studies met inclusion criteria. Five compared health services with high versus low research activity, and three evaluated specific interventions focused on the health workforce. All reported a positive association between research activity and organisational performance.  Benefits included lower mortality rates, higher levels of patient satisfaction, reduced  turnover and satisfaction of staff and improved efficiency.

Significance for Allied Health: In recent years there has been significant investment in initiatives within health services to facilitate a culture of research in Allied Health.  This review supports the existence of associations between a strong research culture and benefits to patients, staff and the organisation. However the magnitude of this effect and mechanisms underlying the association remain unclear.  More evidence is needed to determine the return on investment in activities that contribute to a research culture, and the nature of interventions that best achieve this aim.