Last week members of our Improvement Capability directorate attended the second annual UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum (#UKKMbF15) to link with others in the knowledge, research and networks world. Knowledge mobilisation has a number of different names including knowledge into action and knowledge translation, but in essence, it describes the process of turning knowledge into something that can be used in day-to-day practice.
We heard from a number of interesting speakers, including those working to improve health and social care, education and even agriculture in Africa!
Throughout the two days, a number of thought-provoking challenges arose from the conference – we have outlined these below and welcome any thoughts or comments.
Evidence vs. lived experience
Scientific research is undoubtedly essential to the continued development and progression of medicine and best practice in care. However, during a talk by members of WhoCares?Scotland, a voluntary organisation that aims to improve the experiences and opportunities for young people with experience of care, it became clear that lived experiences and the knowledge of those ‘on the ground’ is invaluable and can make a real difference to the lives of those we work with in health and care.
These first-hand accounts of experience and learning are essential to the realisation of the patient experience agenda within the NHS, however, the question arises as to how we ensure lived experience is readily accepted by those who create policy and strategy – on a national, regional and organisational level.
On the one hand, this should be easier than ever with the increasing participation of patients and the public in social media and the use of the internet, however there is still a lean towards academic research, particularly in regards to policy change.
Patient stories are common tools used by those on the frontline to effectively convey to board members and other decision makers the messages that traditional evidence cannot. However, how do we know this is making any difference? Sarah Morton provided us with a useful tool to understand the different levels of impact that evidence can have – uptake (awareness), use (engagement/behaviour change) and impact (policy change); and a way by which we all can ensure that the knowledge of those we care for is not only heard by those who lead our health care organisations, but listened to and acted upon.
Knowledge sharing vs. valuable knowledge transfer
During the conference, the fact that knowledge is being created and shared on a scale never before seen was repeatedly understood as a challenge for those working in research, policy and practice. How do we ensure as those who create knowledge that we are ‘giving’ it to those who need it and how do we ensure as those who use knowledge that we don’t drown in all that is available?
It is clear we can no longer continue to push knowledge out at the rate we currently are, as no one will ever be able to transfer all of this into practice. How do we ensure we are generous with our knowledge without setting people up for failure?
NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Fellow Vicky Ward presented a potential solution to this problem with her ‘What Kind of Knowledge Mobiliser are You?’ a four step process by which anyone including researchers, nurses, CEOs and managers can easily define:
- whose knowledge they are trying to convey (for example patients, staff, academics)
- what type of knowledge they’ll be conveying (scientific, technical or lived experience)
- how the knowledge will be conveyed (through networks, standard communications or interactive learning)
- why the knowledge is being conveyed (to raise awareness, change behaviours, develop new policies or ways of working)
Going through this process can help anyone who has a role to ensure that essential knowledge is shared throughout their organisation or more widely.
Knowledge mobilisation roles vs. knowledge mobilisation skills
So who should do all this? The final question that was raised for us during the conference was whether or not specialised roles should be put in place to support teams and organisations to translate knowledge, or if those already in healthcare should be supported to increase their own capacity and capability to take research and experience and put this into practice.
In times of austerity and tight budgets, it is unlikely the NHS is able to dedicate resources to this function, but how can we educate and train already busy staff in the art of sifting today’s high volume of knowledge and moving it from a paper into practice? Can we really build the skills necessary within the system, or is a middle man – a broker – necessary to ensure this happens smoothly?
While a certain level of expertise is required to ‘mobilise’ knowledge quickly and effectively, at NHS IQ we believe that all members of the NHS can and should play a part in developing their own skills in this area, to ensure the top down implementation of best practice and the bottom up representation of patient and staff opinions and experiences.
In reality, all those in health and social care are knowledge mobilisers, translating what they learn in their day-to-day lives to improve the care of patients. The challenge in this field is raising awareness of the skills that many of our staff have and the value of developing these in a systematic way to improve patient care, support our staff and make the most of our valuable resources.