Literature review to identify factors that support implementation of evidence-based practice in residential aged care


Mr Malcolm Masso, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Health Service Development, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Email:


The aim was to undertake a review of the literature on change management, quality improvement, evidence-based practice and diffusion of innovations to identify key factors that might influence the uptake and continued use of evidence in residential aged care. The key factors will be used to shape and inform the evaluation of the Encouraging Best Practice in Residential Aged Care Program which commenced in Australia in 2007. MEDLINE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched using combinations of search terms. Searching focused on existing literature reviews, discussions of relevant conceptual and theoretical frameworks and primary studies that have examined the implementation of evidence-based practice in residential aged care. Keyword searching was supplemented with snowball searching (following up on the references cited in the papers identified by the search), searching by key authors in the field and hand searching of a small number of journals. In general, the period covered by the searches was from 2002 to 2008. The findings from the literature are often equivocal. Analysis and consolidation of factors derived from the literature that might influence the implementation of evidence-based practice resulted in the identification of eight factors: (i) a receptive context for change; (ii) having a model of change to guide implementation; (iii) adequate resources; (iv) staff with the necessary skills; (v) stakeholder engagement, participation and commitment; (vi) the nature of the change in practice; (vii) systems in place to support the use of evidence; and (viii) demonstrable benefits of the change. Most of the literature included in the review is from studies in healthcare and hence the generalisability to residential aged care is largely unknown. However, the focus of this research is on clinical care, within the context of residential aged care, hence the healthcare literature is relevant. The factors are relatively broad and cover the evidence itself, the process of implementation, the context within which evidence will be implemented and the systems and resources to support implementation. It is likely that the factors are not independent of each other. The set of factors will be refined over the course of the evaluation.