Objective: To critically review the evidence regarding barriers to implementing research findings in rural and remote settings, and the ways those barriers have been addressed.
Design: A systematic review that included searching several electronic databases, Internet sites and reference lists of relevant articles, assessment of methodological quality of the studies, and data extraction and analysis where possible. Eligibility for the review was not limited by study design.
Settings/Participants: Studies that reported on: (1) barriers to the implementation of evidence by health professionals in rural and remote areas, or (2) interventions for implementing evidence-based practice or an element of evidence-based practice in rural and remote areas.
Results: There were no experimental data available on the implementation of research findings in rural and remote clinical settings. The small amounts of empirical research undertaken (surveys) showed that some of the problems experienced by general practitioners were exacerbated by rural and remote location, particularly with relation to isolation, lack of time and locum cover, and poor information technology infrastructure.
Conclusion: There is a paucity of empirical literature on implementing evidence-based practice in rural and remote settings. This is in contrast to the large amount of literature available on implementing evidence in other clinical settings. A clear finding from the literature was that getting evidence into practice needs to be context-specific and yet very little research has been conducted into the rural and remote context. Research is needed into how evidence can be implemented in contextually specific ways in rural and remote areas.
What is already known: There is a substantial body of literature about the barriers to implementing research findings into clinical practice and how to address these barriers. This literature includes many systematic reviews and even overviews of systematic reviews. One of the consistent findings of the literature is that the implementation of research findings needs to be context-specific to have any chance of making lasting and worthwhile changes to practice. There is little work, however, on the context of rural and remote clinical practice.
What this study adds: This study aimed to review the literature on the implementation of evidence based practice in rural and remote settings. No experimental studies were found and the limited empirical evidence from surveys found that the rural and remote context exacerbated some of the problems experienced by health professionals in other settings, particularly those related to lack of time, inability to get locum cover and poor and unreliable information technology infrastructure. More research is required to isolate the aspects of rural and remote practice that influence the uptake of research findings.