Taking the pulse of the health services research community: A cross-sectional survey of research impact, barriers and support

Elizabeth A. Fradgley, Jon Karnon, Della Roach, Katherine Harding, Laura Wilkinson-Meyers, Catherine Chojenta, Megan Campbell, Melissa L. Harris, Jacqueline Cumming, Kim Dalziel, Janet McDonald, Tilley Pain, Kirsten Smiler, Christine L. Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: This study reports on the characteristics of individuals conducting health service research (HSR) in Australia and New Zealand, the perceived accessibility of resources for HSR, the self-reported impact of HSR projects and perceived barriers to conducting HSR. Methods: A sampling frame was compiled from funding announcements, trial registers and HSR organisation membership. Listed researchers were invited to complete online surveys. Close-ended survey items were analysed using basic descriptive statistics. Goodness of fit tests determined potential associations between researcher affiliation and access to resources for HSR. Open-ended survey items were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: In all, 424 researchers participated in the study (22% response rate). Respondents held roles as health service researchers (76%), educators (34%) and health professionals (19%). Most were employed by a university (64%), and 57% held a permanent contract. Although 63% reported network support for HSR, smaller proportions reported executive (48%) or financial (26%) support. The least accessible resources were economists (52%), consumers (49%) and practice change experts (34%) researchers affiliated with health services were less likely to report access to statisticians (P < 0.001), economists (P < 0.001), librarians (P = 0.02) and practice change experts (P = 0.02) than university-affiliated researchers. Common impacts included conference presentations (94%), publication of peer-reviewed articles (87%) and health professional benefits (77%). Qualitative data emphasised barriers such as embedding research culture within services and engaging with policy makers. Conclusions: The data highlight opportunities to sustain the HSR community through dedicated funding, improved access to methodological expertise and greater engagement with end-users. What is known about the topic?: HSR faces several challenges, such as inequitable funding allocation and difficulties in quantifying the effects of HSR on changing health policy or practice. What does this paper add?: Despite a vibrant and experienced HSR community, this study highlights some key barriers to realising a greater effect on the health and well-being of Australian and New Zealand communities through HSR. These barriers include limited financial resources, methodological expertise, organisational support and opportunities to engage with potential collaborators. What are the implications for practitioners?: Funding is required to develop HSR infrastructure, support collaboration between health services and universities and combine knowledge of the system with research experience and expertise. Formal training programs for health service staff and researchers, from short courses to PhD programs, will support broader interest and involvement in HSR.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberAH18213
Pages (from-to)160-167
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number1
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • health service research
  • patients' needs
  • multidisciplinary
  • funding


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