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Patients might fare better at hospitals doing research

Patients treated by clinicians and healthcare organisations who have engaged in research might receive better healthcare, indicates a study led from Brunel University London.

This has long been thought to be the case, but until now there has been little evidence to back it.

Brunel University London’s Health Economic Research Group combed over 2,000 international academic papers reporting results in areas including breast cancer care, substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation of injured veterans.

Thirty-three papers were eventually included in the analysis because of the central relevance of their findings. Twenty-eight out of these 33 papers showed research has a positive effect on patient care. Seven of the 28 papers flagged up better post-treatment survival rates. This was in fields such as ovarian cancer and unstable angina.

There are many possible reasons for the identified improvements in the delivery of healthcare. For example, some come from ground-breaking new treatments being started earlier and others from staff being more up to date with the latest research in their area.

NHS Trusts differ widely in their involvement with research. Hospitals closely linking research with patient care tend to deliver better care than those where research is less of a priority. Professor Steve Hanney said: “From this we learn that organisations that deliberately integrate the research function into organisational structures demonstrate how research engagement can contribute to improved health care performance.”

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The NIHR’s briefing to the NHS about the study, the full report and the BMJ Open publication can be read here.