The value of allied health professional research engagement on healthcare performance: a systematic review

Chalmers, Sophie orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5919-1740, Hill, James Edward orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1430-6927, Connell, Louise Anne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0629-2919, Ackerley, Suzanne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7059-3329, Kulkarni, Amit A and Roddam, Hazel (2023) The value of allied health professional research engagement on healthcare performance: a systematic review. BMC Health Services Research .

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Existing evidence suggests that clinician and organisation engagement in research can improve healthcare performance. However, current evidence has considered the relationship across all healthcare professions collectively. With the increase in allied health professional (AHP) clinical academic and research activity, it is imperative for healthcare organisations, leaders and managers to understand research engagement within these specific clinical fields. This systematic review aims to examine the value of research engagement by allied health professionals and organisations on healthcare performance.

This systematic review had a two-stage search strategy. Firstly, the papers from a previous systematic review examining the effect of research engagement in healthcare were screened to identify relevant papers published pre-2012. Secondly, a multi-database search was used to update the previous review but with a specific focus on allied health to identify publications from 2012 to date. Studies which explored the value of allied health research engagement on healthcare performance were included. All stages of the review were conducted by two reviewers independently, plus documented discussions with the wider research team when discrepancies occurred. Each study was assessed using the appropriate critical appraisal tool developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute.

Twenty-two studies were included, of which six were ranked as high importance. This sample comprised mixed research designs. Overall, the findings indicated positive improvements in processes of care. The review also identified the most common mechanisms which may link research engagement with improvements to processes of care.

This landmark review is the first benchmark of evidence that explicitly shows improved processes of care and outcomes from AHP research engagement. The lack of transparent reporting of AHP research engagement highlights the need for clear recommendations in the design of future prospective studies. These proposals specifically include greater transparency in relation to AHP involvement, mechanisms and types of research engagement. The inclusion of these aspects as an integral component of future intervention study designs may contribute essential evidence of the value and impact of AHP research engagement.

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