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Health Services Research & Development

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FORUM - Translating research into quality health care for Veterans

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Director's Letter

Seth A. Eisen, M.D., M.Sc.

HSR&D is uniquely positioned to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based research into policy and clinical practice. This is the core of HSR&D's mission. Engagement of stakeholders (i.e., field and VA Central Office [VACO], operations and managers, patient care staff, and Veterans), as appropriate, early in the research process is key to the success of this mission.

Input from stakeholders can be invaluable, initially when conceiving a research project, and subsequently to facilitate its eventual implementation and systematization. A first step is to determine, given the nature and scope of the project, who at a particular medical center, Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN), or in VACO may be interested in providing input. As an example, in the article by Jain and Evans in the current issue of FORUM, a research project related to MRSA infections must acknowledge VHA's current MRSA Prevention Program, and possibly incorporate developing programmatic policies and procedures into the project's research goals. For other articles in this issue, the project that involved hand washing (Lukas and Petzel) and the project addressing prevention of catheter-associated urinary tract infections (Render, Hasselbeck, and Almenoff) would likely involve different sets of stakeholders.

As the research project progresses, to maintain engagement, researchers should periodically update VHA stakeholders. Finally, as the project nears completion, researchers should consider next steps. For example, how likely is a successful research intervention to be sustained following the research project's conclusion? What additional research may be required? Are the project's research results sufficiently significant to warrant a subsequent broad implementation project? Who is responsible for the next steps? Even if the particular research team will not pursue a related project, a responsibility remains to support follow-up efforts. Because VHA is an integrated health care system, peer reviewed publications are required but not sufficient.

There are many stages of a research endeavor. Each stage can benefit from stakeholder counsel and expertise. While it may take considerable effort to identify the most relevant stakeholders and maintain contact, benefits can be immeasurable. The VA research community provides a wealth of collaborative opportunities, which I strongly urge all researchers to consider when planning their research projects.

Seth A. Eisen, M.D., M.Sc.
Director, HSR&D

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