Introduction: The National Institute of Clinical Studies (NICS) is Australia's leading agency to close important gaps between best available evidence and current clinical practice. NICS tests and develops ways to support clinicians in the implementation of evidence.
Communities of Practice are networks that have been established in non-healthcare sectors to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and provide opportunities for participants to contribute to, and use, that knowledge to improve practice. The NICS sponsored Community of Practice (CoP) program builds on the momentum of the national Emergency Department Collaborative (2002) to implement evidence base change in emergency care.
Methods: NICS is testing the application of this model in healthcare through the establishment of the Emergency Care Community of Practice, the core objectives of which are:
- the provision of high quality evidence-based information
- forums to support the exchange of information
- a clinical leaders program to foster implementation expertise
- implementation of discrete projects including
- the Mental Health Emergency Care project
- an 'Emergency Care Evidence-Practice Gaps' report
Results: The Emergency Care Community of Practice has demonstrated:
- improved outcomes nationally for mental health presentations to the emergency department
- reduced length of stay
- decreased "Did Not waits"
- improved triage and medical clearance processes.
- rapid uptake and spread of innovative solutions in emergency care.
- continued growth in the Emergency Care Community of Practice membership of over 400 practitioners across Australia.
- strong partnerships with professional bodies and government agencies.
- the value of a Community of Practice model in healthcare to support clinicians to identify and close evidence practice gaps
Discussion: An evaluation framework process has been incorporated into the program to understand the potential for Communities of Practice to translate evidence into practice. The evaluation of this program will produce a robust source of evidence about its effectiveness. The potential and value of the Community of Practice model is reflected in the sustained membership and ongoing interest of the membership to participate in evidence implementation activities.