Integrating the complexity of healthcare improvement with implementation science: A longitudinal qualitative case study

Angela Melder, Tracy Robinson, Ian Mcloughlin, Rick Iedema, Helena Teede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Implementation science seeks to enable change, underpinned by theories and frameworks such as the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). Yet academia and frontline healthcare improvement remain largely siloed, with limited integration of implementation science methods into frontline improvement where the drivers include pragmatic, rapid change. Using the CIFR lens, we aimed to explore how pragmatic and complex healthcare improvement and implementation science can be integrated. 

Methods: Our research involved the investigation of a case study that was undertaking the implementation of an improvement intervention at a large public health service. Our research involved qualitative data collection methods of semi-structured interviews and non-participant observations of the implementation team delivering the intervention. Thematic analysis identified key themes from the qualitative data. We examined our themes through the lens of CFIR to gain in-depth understanding of how the CFIR components operated in a ‘real-world’ context. 

Results: The key themes emerging from our research outlined that leadership, context and process are the key components that dominate and affect the implementation process. Leadership which cultivates connections with front line clinicians, fosters engagement and trust. Navigating context was facilitated by ‘bottom-up’ governance. Multi-disciplinary and cross-sector capability were key processes that supported pragmatic and agile responses in a changing complex environment. Process reflected the theoretically-informed, and iterative implementation approach. Mapping CFIR domains and constructs, with these themes demonstrated close alignment with the CFIR. The findings bring further depth to CFIR. Our research demonstrates that leadership which has a focus on patient need as a key motivator to engage clinicians, which applies and ensures iterative processes which leverage contextual factors can achieve successful, sustained implementation and healthcare improvement outcomes. 

Conclusions: Our longitudinal study highlights insights that strengthen alignment between implementation science and pragmatic frontline healthcare improvement. We identify opportunities to enhance the relevance of CFIR in the ‘real-world’ setting through the interconnected nature of our themes. Our study demonstrates actionable knowledge to enhance the integration of implementation science in healthcare improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number234
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Integrating the complexity of healthcare improvement with implementation science: A longitudinal qualitative case study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this