UNC Course Aims to Bridge Gap Between Research, Patient Care

Pharmacy students at the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy are attempting to understand why clinical research takes so long to impact patient care, as well as what they can do about it in their own practices.

Pharmacy students at the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy are attempting to understand why clinical research takes so long to impact patient care, as well as what they can do about it in their own practices.

Professor Megan Roberts, PhD, said Pharmaceutical Sciences 815 is the first course of its kind at UNC, though its subject matter is a growing field. She noted that implementation science is the study of methods that help promote the integration of evidence-based practices into clinical and public health settings in order to improve patient outcomes.

Linking research and patient care has historically presented a challenge, Roberts said. She added that it takes an average of 17 years for just 14% of research to benefit patient care.

There are many reasons for this delay, including barriers on the patient level, within the clinic, and in external policies, according to Roberts. For example, she said that patients' beliefs might impact how well a practice is integrated, or clinics may not have enough available resources for implementation.

It's far from hopeless, however.

"Just like there can be barriers, there can also be facilitators that help things move into practice more easily," Roberts said.

Part of the challenge for implementation scientists, therefore, is to understand how to overcome those barriers while leveraging facilitators.

Roberts began designing the course about a year ago after joining the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in August 2018. The course is available to pharmacy students as well as PhD students interested in translational and health outcomes research.

"I really wanted to be able to offer a class on implementation because I think it's a really important area for both the pharmacy students to learn about as well as students in the PhD program at our school," Roberts said.

Topics in the course include implementation science frameworks, models, and theories; strategies for implementation; implementing genomics in practice; and implementing pharmacogenomics into the UNC Health Care System.1

The concepts she teaches can apply to all forms of research, though they are perhaps most applicable to evidence-based practices. Ideally, Roberts hopes the students take their new knowledge into the workplace, where they can more effectively implement new policies and procedures. Implementation should also be considered earlier, she added.

"I also think that there's a place for us to even incorporate some of this implementation science thinking earlier, as different interventions, practices, and technologies are being developed," she said.

The students can also gain an understanding of working with other disciplines, Robert said, since implementation scientists need to work with clinicians, patients, and many other stakeholders.

Although the course is only in its second week at UNC, Roberts said she's excited to see where the semester goes. The number of students in the class has increased and she said they're very engaged.

"I'm really excited to have this class," Roberts said. "And to know that we're training student pharmacists and students in other areas of research as well."

REFERENCE

Foundations in Implementation Science: Examples in Precision Health and Society [Syllabus]. Recevied via email from Megan Roberts, Jan 14, 2020.