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Year : 2004  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 374-384

Making Medical Research Clinically Friendly: A Communication-Based Conceptual Framework

1 Department of Communication, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas; Veterans Evidence-based Research, Dissemination, and Implementation Center (VERDICT), Audie L. Murphy Division/South Texas Veterans Health Care System, USA
2 Veterans Evidence-based Research, Dissemination, and Implementation Center (VERDICT), Audie L. Murphy Division/South Texas Veterans Health Care System; Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas, USA
3 Department of Internal Medicine, Wright State University School of Medicine, Dayton, Ohio, USA

Correspondence Address:
John M Mcgrath
Department of Communication, Trinity University, One Trinity Place, San Antonio, TX 78212
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Context: It often takes a long time before the results of medical research are actually used by health care practitioners in day-to-day clinical settings. This problem, referred to as ''the evidence-to-practice gap'', has significant implications for patient health care. Practitioners have difficulty keeping up with the latest information in part because it is reported in hundreds of journals that may not be easily accessed and understood. Approach: This essay conceptualizes the evidence-to-practice gap as a communication problem and suggests how academic research can be translated into messages that are easier for practitioners to access, comprehend and incorporate into their medical practice. A ''translation framework'' shows the importance of targeting messages to specific audiences and provides a communication-based conceptual approach for summarizing research for clinicians. Practical Implications: Targeting the results of academic research to practitioners will decrease the time it takes for patients to benefit from the latest medical evidence. Translation guidelines can help health researchers write more effectively for both academic and practitioner audiences. Since the evidence-to-practice gap is a systemic problem that begins with how we train our health researchers, educators should consider addressing this topic in the health professions classroom. The framework presented here can serve as the basis for an instructional unit on interpreting and reporting research findings. Finally, information technology can play a much larger role in the communication process because of the enormous advantages of quick access and data organization that computers and the Internet provide. Practitioner-targeted research summaries could be made available on government or not-for-profit sponsored websites as well as by journals themselves. Funding opportunities exist for research that focuses on how technology can help improve health care, and so the time is right for health researchers to investigate ways of making their studies more accessible and quickly usable via web-based distribution. The potential of medical science should not be limited by an information delivery system that we have the knowledge, expertise and resources to improve.

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