Introducing an interactional approach to exploring facilitation as an implementation intervention: examining the utility of Conversation Analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

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Background: The widely adopted integrated-Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (i- PARIHS) framework identifies facilitation as a ‘core ingredient’ for successful implementation. Indeed, most implementation scientists agree that a certain degree of facilitation is required to translate research into clinical practice; that is, there must be some intentional effort to assist the implementation of evidence-based approaches and practices into healthcare. Yet understandings of what constitutes facilitation and how to facilitate effectively remain largely theoretical and, therefore, provide scant practical guidance to ensure facilitator success. Implementation Science theories and frameworks often describe facilitation as an activity accomplished in, and through, formal and informal communication amongst facilitators and those involved in the implementation process (i.e. ‘recipients’). However, the specific communication practices that constitute and enable effective facilitation are currently inadequately understood.

Aim: In this debate article, we argue that without effective facilitation—a practice requiring significant interactional and interpersonal skills—many implementation projects encounter difficulties. Therefore, we explore whether and how the application of Conversation Analysis, a rigorous research methodology for researching patterns of interaction, could expand existing understandings of facilitation within the Implementation Science field. First, we illustrate how Conversation Analysis methods can be applied to identifying what facilitation looks like in interaction. Second, we draw from existing conversation analytic research into facilitation outside of Implementation Science to expand current understandings of how facilitation might be achieved within implementation.

Conclusion: In this paper, we argue that conversation analytic methods show potential to understand and refine facilitation as a critical, and inherently interactional, component of implementation efforts. Conversation analytic investigations of facilitation as it occurs in real-time between participants could inform mechanisms to (1) improve understandings of how to achieve successful implementation through facilitation, (2) overcome difficulties and challenges in implementation related to interpersonal communication and interaction, (3) inform future facilitator training and (4) inform refinement of existing facilitation theories and frameworks (e.g. i-PARIHS) currently used in implementation interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number98
Number of pages11
JournalImplementation Science Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2020


  • iPARIHS Framework
  • Research
  • Clinical Practice
  • Facilitation
  • Conversation Analysis
  • Knowledge Translation
  • i-PARIHS
  • Interaction
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Implementation


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