BACKGROUND: Current approaches to medical science generally have not resulted in rapid, robust integration into feasible, sustainable real world healthcare programs and policies. Implementation science risks falling short of expectations if it aligns with historical norms. Fundamentally different scientific approaches are needed to accelerate such integration.
METHODS: We propose that the key goal of implementation science should be to study the development, spread and sustainability of broadly applicable and practical programs, treatments, guidelines, and policies that are contextually relevant and robust across diverse settings, delivery staff, and subgroups. We recommend key conceptual and methodological characteristics needed to accomplish these goals.
RESULTS: The methods to produce such advances should be rapid, rigorous, transparent, and contextually relevant. We recommend approaches that incorporate a systems perspective, investigate generalizability, are transparent, and employ practical measures and participatory approaches.
CONCLUSIONS: To produce different outcomes, we need to think and act differently. Implications of such an implementation science approach include fundamental changes that should be relevant to Clinical Translational Science Award investigators, comparative effectiveness researchers, those interested in pragmatic trials, grant funders, and community partners.
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