Tim_HeadshotWhen we translate research so that it’s most helpful to policymakers, what steps do we take to ensure the findings actually resonate? This question was at the center of the Disruptive Women in Health Care event on Tuesday, June 2nd, “A Disruptive Health Services MashUp – Moving Research into Policy,” where panelists gave answers ranging from increasing engagement with policymakers, to using simpler language to describe research findings and to even writing a song.

The program during Health Datapalooza 2015 at the Mariott Wardman Park in Washington, DC, featured panelists Lauren Radomski, MPP, Senior Manager, AcademyHealth; Alicia Wilson, Executive Director, La Clínica del Pueblo; and Wen Dombrowski, MD, MBA, Aging, Technology, Social Media Advisor, Resonate Health. Each panelist shared insights into how she and their organizations are reforming the way research is communicated.

“The ability to translate and disseminate research, and all of this information among us here and among stakeholders and other audiences outside of this room and outside of DC is the dream,” said Robin Strongin, Founder of Disruptive Women in Health Care, setting the stage for the panel discussion.

6.5Radomski, who helped spearhead AcademyHealth’s Listening Project, said a good starting point was to understand policymakers’ needs. As a result, the Listening Project interviewed policymakers from different states to find out what was useful. A theme they found was that interviewees wanted to learn how to improve care and reduce costs for enrollees with complex health care and social service needs.

“The people we spoke with were really interested in evidence that drills down to look at specific patient populations and looks at what type of interventions work for what populations, under what circumstances and why,” Radomski said.

Wilson, whose La Clínica del Pueblo in Washington, DC, provides culturally appropriate health services to the Latino community, noted that there is an urgent need for research among those in the provider community, especially given the fast-moving pieces of the Affordable Care Act. However, she said, policymaking, research and bureaucracy are three critical components speaking different languages and not moving in unison.

“The providers of care who are also trying to keep their lights on and serve their communities, and for us as a nonprofit to live out our mission, we’re sort of subject to the whims and miscommunication of all of those things,” said Wilson, who acknowledged that community health centers can demonstrate what works and can be models to be replicated at a larger scale.

Dombrowski’s remarks focused on the need to get research findings, which aren’t always readily available, disseminated more easily so they reach targeted audiences, extend circles and ultimately effect change. She noted three barriers to communicating research more effectively:

  1. Research findings may lack the right keywords, making searches more difficult.
  2. Research findings, once they are found, may be stuck behind a paywall.
  3. People may not know that research on a certain topic even exists.

In addition, she said, traditional ways of communicating research may not be working.

“A lot of people nowadays don’t have the attention span to read long articles,” Dombrowski said, emphasizing the need to take advantage of alternative channels to distribute research, including music. “Is there a way where you can summarize your main key messages in bullet format or create charts and infographics for those who are more visual learners?

The panel wrapped up with a question-and-answer session with audience members, including a robust exchange with patients—and the need to include citizen scientists in the process.

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