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Disseminating healthcare information: getting the message across
  1. S Marriott, consultant psychiatrist
  1. Department of Psychiatry, Paterson Centre, UK
  1. C Palmer, clinical effectiveness programme manager ,
  2. P Lelliott, director
  1. College Research Unit, London, UK
  1. Dr S Marriott, Department of Psychiatry, Paterson Centre, North West London Trust, 20 South Wharf Road, London W2 1PD, UK.

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It has been shown that there are often significant delays in incorporating clinical recommendations into routine practice.1 The biomedical knowledge base is expected to have doubled in size within the next 20 years; however, there is already evidence that even the existing volume of scientific information is unmanageable to those who use it (box 1).2 Its sources are diffuse and disorganised. For doctors alone, these sources can include the medical and popular media; recommendations of professional, political, and legal bodies; the output from educational campaigns and programmes; as well as marketing material from commercial sectors allied to health care, in particular the pharmaceutical and medical appliances industries. These are quite apart from internal, day to day information generated within doctors' own organisations. In a review of 13 well designed qualitative or quantitative studies exploring doctors' information needs, it was ascertained that they needed enormous amounts of information most of which was usually inaccessible.3

Box 1. Factors indicating the need for more effective dissemination

  • Established delays in incorporating evidence into routine practice

  • Rapidly expanding biomedical knowledge base

  • Diffuse and disorganised information sources

  • Information overload

What are the implications of these findings in a public health service committed to providing efficient and effective care?4 Evidence-based practice calls for the rapid incorporation of best available evidence into routine practice. An important issue for those concerned with developing the policies on which clinical practice is based, including researchers, policy makers, and professional bodies, is how to connect the rapidly expanding knowledge base of health care to the needs of the professionals who deliver it. Dissemination is an essential component of the quality improvement cycle, ensuring the best available evidence is incorporated into routine practice with the smallest possible delay.

In 1993, the Royal College of Psychiatrists' research unit undertook a …

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