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Scientific Evidence and Clinical Practice

In his article entitled “Closing the Time Lag between Evidence and Clinical Practice”, Thomas Sharon (2015) pointed out that there exists a lag between the time when scientific evidence is reported and its practical implementation in clinical settings; and this time lag is as long as 17 years. This issue has been known and discussed for a while, and many different researchers have published articles referring to its root causes and outcomes.

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For instance, Morris, Wooding, and Grant (2011) conducted research evaluating the information known about this time lag and concluded that when it comes to the practicality of the knowledge about the time lag available to the agencies that work on its minimization, it is extremely scarce and does not translate into any effective actions or strategies. Also, Hanney et al. (2015) noticed that even though it is commonly accepted that the reduction of the time lag is required to maximize the benefits for both the medical practice and patients, no reliable ways are helping to measure the time lags and evaluate the reasons why they are registered and whether or not they occur within the general timelines.

It was pointed out by Hanney et al. (2015) that there are different approaches to the measuring strategies applied to research-practice time lags. To be more precise, the evidence required to reduce time lags is the information contributing to a better understanding of the nature of the lags by the researchers. The process marker model is one of the newer approaches to the problem. This model allows creating a matrix of the activities involved in the time lags and monitoring the tracks of activities that overlap, facilitating a delay between the research and implementation stages of different practices (Hanney et al., 2015). In turn, knowing these overlapping tracks, the researchers become able to influence them with the help of new policies and regulations. In other words, this approach could help the researchers understand why the lags appear and address the root causes to minimize the prevalence of delays.

When it comes to the barriers to the practical implementation of the research results, it is critical to review the number of studies published annually, and this rate of publication has been growing steadily over the last several years enabled by the rapid development of the information technologies (Sharon, 2015). As a result, the body of research available to the practitioners and policy-makers is very large, and due to this reason, it is impossible to access all the published studies and put their findings into practice. This tendency can be named as one of the most significant barriers preventing the timely implementation of the research knowledge. This problem could be addressed with the help of systematizing and synthesizing the enormous amount of new information that appears regularly. However, there is a risk that the researchers involved in the systematization process (the reviewers) could impact the information adding biases or misinterpreting the results.

To sum up, the lag between the time when the research findings are published, and their implementation or addition to practice has been estimated; its length equals 17 years. This gap prevents the potential benefits for the patients and slows down the progress in practical clinical settings. It also has a complex nature that needs to be fully understood for the researchers to be able to minimize the lag.


Hanney, S. R., Castle-Clarke, S., Grant, J., Guthrie, S., Henshall, C., Mestre-Ferrandiz, J., … Wooding, S. (2015). How long does biomedical research take? Studying the time taken between biomedical and health research and its translation into products, policy, and practice. Health Research Policy and Systems, 13(1).

Morris, Z., Wooding, M., Grant, J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question: Understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 104(12): 510–520.

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Sharon, T. A. (2015). Closing the time lag between evidence and clinical practice. Web.

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