“We’re Not Providing the Best Care If We Are Not on the Cutting Edge of Research”: A Research Impact Evaluation at a Regional Australian Hospital and Health Service

Document Type : Original Article


1 Townsville Hospital and Health Service, Townsville, QLD, Australia

2 James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia

3 Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia


Research is central to high functioning health services alongside clinical care and health professional training. The impact of embedded research includes delivery of high-quality care and improved patient outcomes. Evaluations of research impact help health service leadership ensure investments lead to the greatest healthcare benefits for patients. This study aimed to retrospectively evaluate the impact of research investment from 2008 to 2018 at Townsville Hospital and Health Service (THHS), a regional Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, Australia. The evaluation also sought to identify contextual conditions that enable or hinder intended impacts.

A mixed-methods realist-informed evaluation was conducted using documentation, interviews with 15 staff and available databases to identify and measure research investments, impacts and contextual conditions influencing impact outcomes.

Between 2008 and 2018, THHS increased resources for research by funding research projects, employing research personnel, building research-enabling facilities, hosting research events, and providing research education and training. Clinical practice, policy and workforce impacts were successful in isolated pockets, championed by individual researchers and facilitated by their policy and community-of-practice networks. However, there was little organisationallevel support for continuity of research and implementation into practice and policy. Availability of research supports varied geographically across THHS, and across disciplines.

Definitive steps in the development of THHS as a credible and productive research centre and leading hospital research centre in Northern Australia are evident. Continuing investments should address support for the research continuum through to translation and establish ongoing, systematic processes for evaluating research investment and impact.



Commentaries Published on this Paper


  • Retrospective Impact Evaluation Continuing to Prove Challenging Irrespective of Setting: A Study of Research Impact Enablers and Challenges Cloaked as an Impact Evaluation?; Comment on “‘We’re Not Providing the Best Care If We Are Not on the Cutting Edge of Research’: A Research Impact Evaluation at a Regional Australian Hospital and Health Service”

        Abstract | PDF


  • Bibliometrics, the “Clinical Diagnostics” of Research Impact; Comment on “‘We’re Not Providing the Best Care If We Are Not on the Cutting Edge of Research’: A Research Impact Evaluation at a Regional Australian Hospital and Health Service”

        Abstract | PDF


  • Cutting Edge Research? Realistic Expectations of Priorities, Scope and Engagement; Comment on “‘We’re Not Providing the Best Care If We Are Not on the Cutting Edge of Research’: A Research Impact Evaluation at a Regional Australian Hospital and Health Service”

        Abstract | PDF


  • If Providing Best Care Means Being at the Cutting Edge of Research, Should It Be Implemented System-wide?; Comment on “‘We’re Not Providing the Best Care If We Are Not on the Cutting Edge of Research’: A Research Impact Evaluation at a Regional Australian Hospital and Health Service”

        Abstract | PDF


  • Embedded Research: Possibilities for Learning Health Systems; Comment on “‘We’re Not Providing the Best Care if We are Not on the Cutting Edge of Research’: A Research Impact Evaluation at a Regional Australian Hospital and Health Service”

        Abstract | PDF



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Volume 11, Issue 12
December 2022
Pages 3000-3011
  • Receive Date: 23 June 2021
  • Revise Date: 18 March 2022
  • Accept Date: 10 May 2022
  • First Publish Date: 11 May 2022