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What can management theories offer evidence-based practice? A comparative analysis of measurement tools for organisational context

Beverley French1*, Lois H Thomas1, Paula Baker2, Christopher R Burton3, Lindsay Pennington4 and Hazel Roddam5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing and Caring Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, England, PR1 2HE, UK

2 Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, North Manchester General Hospital, Manchester, England, M8 5RB, UK

3 Centre for Health-Related Research, School of Healthcare Sciences, College of Health and Behavioural Sciences, Bangor University, Gwynedd, Wales, LL57 2EF, UK

4 School of Clinical Medical Sciences (Child Health), University of Newcastle, Sir James Spence Institute, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, NE1 4LP, UK

5 School of Public Health and Clinical Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, England, PR1 2HE, UK

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Implementation Science 2009, 4:28  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-4-28

Published: 19 May 2009



Given the current emphasis on networks as vehicles for innovation and change in health service delivery, the ability to conceptualise and measure organisational enablers for the social construction of knowledge merits attention. This study aimed to develop a composite tool to measure the organisational context for evidence-based practice (EBP) in healthcare.


A structured search of the major healthcare and management databases for measurement tools from four domains: research utilisation (RU), research activity (RA), knowledge management (KM), and organisational learning (OL). Included studies were reports of the development or use of measurement tools that included organisational factors. Tools were appraised for face and content validity, plus development and testing methods. Measurement tool items were extracted, merged across the four domains, and categorised within a constructed framework describing the absorptive and receptive capacities of organisations.


Thirty measurement tools were identified and appraised. Eighteen tools from the four domains were selected for item extraction and analysis. The constructed framework consists of seven categories relating to three core organisational attributes of vision, leadership, and a learning culture, and four stages of knowledge need, acquisition of new knowledge, knowledge sharing, and knowledge use. Measurement tools from RA or RU domains had more items relating to the categories of leadership, and acquisition of new knowledge; while tools from KM or learning organisation domains had more items relating to vision, learning culture, knowledge need, and knowledge sharing. There was equal emphasis on knowledge use in the different domains.


If the translation of evidence into knowledge is viewed as socially mediated, tools to measure the organisational context of EBP in healthcare could be enhanced by consideration of related concepts from the organisational and management sciences. Comparison of measurement tools across domains suggests that there is scope within EBP for supplementing the current emphasis on human and technical resources to support information uptake and use by individuals. Consideration of measurement tools from the fields of KM and OL shows more content related to social mechanisms to facilitate knowledge recognition, translation, and transfer between individuals and groups.