The science of implementation: Changing the practice of critical care

Craig R. Weinert, Henry J. Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Few would disagree that evidence from clinical research should be brought to the bedside in an efficient and equitable manner. Unfortunately, this common agreement does not result in practice change at the bedside where delayed and variable implementation is common. Recognition of this gap has resulted in a new discipline called implementation science that seeks to understand the reasons for slow adoption of clinical therapeutics and to discover effective strategies that accelerate practice change. This article reviews implementation theory and strategies and their effectiveness and relevance to critical care. RECENT FINDINGS: The absence of a proven effective framework for implementing clinical practice change has resulted in a patchwork of interventions in ambulatory and acute care medicine. There is an increasing appreciation that interventions should be undertaken only after careful, theory-based examination of the source and strength of the evidence, the organizational and professional context in which the change will be made, and the availability of facilitating methods. Barriers to implementing sepsis management programs have been identified and, in some cases, overcome. SUMMARY: Changing clinical practice is sometimes as difficult as the basic science and clinical trials work that led to the discovery of beneficial therapies. Investigators are now beginning to develop and test more theory-based implementation models that are relevant to the clinical environment. A proportion of the resources used in developing an ICU guideline or protocol must be dedicated to the implementation strategy for successful adoption. ICUs are ideal organizations to test new approaches in implementation science. Intensive care professionals should insist that their practice environment have both a culture that is supportive of adopting new practices and adequate resources to implement them into patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-465
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008


  • Best practice
  • Critical care
  • Guidelines
  • Implementation science
  • Quality improvement
  • Translational research


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