There are many challenges in delivering and evaluating knowledge for healthcare, but the lack of clear routes from knowledge to practice is a root cause of failures in safety within healthcare. Various types and sources of knowledge are relevant at different levels within the healthcare system. These need to be delivered in a timely way that is useful and actionable for those providing services or developing policies. How knowledge is taken up and used through networks and relationships, and the difficulties in attributing change to knowledge-based interventions, present challenges to understanding how knowledge into action (K2A) work influences healthcare outcomes. This makes it difficult to demonstrate the importance of K2A work, and harness support for its development and resourcing. This paper presents the results from a project commissioned by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to create an evaluation framework to help understand the NHS Scotland Knowledge into Action model.
The team took a developmental approach to creating an evaluation framework that would be useful and practical. This included a literature review to ensure the evaluation was evidence-based; adaptation of contribution analysis for K2A project; action research with K2A project leads to refine the work and develop suitable measures.
Principles for evaluation and an evaluation framework based on contribution analysis were developed and implemented on a trial project. An outcomes chain was developed for the K2A programme and specific projects. This was used to design, collect and collate evidence of the K2A intervention. Data collected routinely by the intervention was supplemented with specific feedback measures from K2A project users.
The evaluation approach allowed for scrutiny of both processes and outcomes and was adaptable to projects on different scales. This framework has proved useful as a planning, reflecting and evaluation tool for K2A, and could be more widely used to evidence the ways in which knowledge to action work helps improve healthcare outcomes.