This article describes the importance and role of 4 stages of formative evaluation in our growing understanding of how to implement research findings into practice in order to improve the quality of clinical care. It reviews limitations of traditional approaches to implementation research and presents a rationale for new thinking and use of new methods. Developmental, implementation-focused, progress-focused, and interpretive evaluations are then defined and illustrated with examples from Veterans Health Administration Quality Enhancement Research Initiative projects. This article also provides methodologic details and highlights challenges encountered in actualizing formative evaluation within implementation research.
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