The movement of evidence-based practices (EBPs) into routine clinical usage is not spontaneous, but requires focused efforts. The field of implementation science has developed to facilitate the spread of EBPs, including both psychosocial and medical interventions for mental and physical health concerns.
The authors aim to introduce implementation science principles to non-specialist investigators, administrators, and policymakers seeking to become familiar with this emerging field. This introduction is based on published literature and the authors' experience as researchers in the field, as well as extensive service as implementation science grant reviewers. Implementation science is "the scientific study of methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings and other EBPs into routine practice, and, hence, to improve the quality and effectiveness of health services." Implementation science is distinct from, but shares characteristics with, both quality improvement and dissemination methods. Implementation studies can be either assess naturalistic variability or measure change in response to planned intervention. Implementation studies typically employ mixed quantitative-qualitative designs, identifying factors that impact uptake across multiple levels, including patient, provider, clinic, facility, organization, and often the broader community and policy environment. Accordingly, implementation science requires a solid grounding in theory and the involvement of trans-disciplinary research teams. The business case for implementation science is clear: As healthcare systems work under increasingly dynamic and resource-constrained conditions, evidence-based strategies are essential in order to ensure that research investments maximize healthcare value and improve public health. Implementation science plays a critical role in supporting these efforts.