Meaningful coproduction with clinicians: establishing a practice-based research network with physiotherapists in regional Australia

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Health Research Policy and Systems


Background: The disconnect between research and clinical practice leads to research evidence that is often not useful for clinical practice. Practice-based research networks are collaborations between researchers and clinicians aimed at coproducing more useful research. Such networks are rare in the physiotherapy field. We aimed to describe (i) clinicians’ motivations behind, and enablers to, participating in a network, (ii) the process of network establishment and (iii) research priorities for a practice-based network of physiotherapists in the Hunter Region of New South Wales (NSW), Australia that supports research coproduction. Methods: We describe the methods and outcomes of the three steps we used to establish the network. Step 1 involved consultation with local opinion leaders and a formative evaluation to understand clinicians’ motivations behind, and enablers to, participating in a network. Step 2 involved establishment activities to generate a founding membership group and codesign a governance model. Step 3 involved mapping clinical problems through a workshop guided by systems thinking theory with local stakeholders and prioritizing research areas. Results: Through formative evaluation focus groups, we generated five key motivating themes and three key enablers for physiotherapists’ involvement in the network. Establishment activities led to a founding membership group (n = 29, 67% from private practice clinics), a network vision and mission statement, and a joint governance group (9/13 [70%] are private practice clinicians). Our problem-mapping and prioritization process led to three clinically relevant priority research areas with the potential for significant change in practice and patient outcomes. Conclusions: Clinicians are motivated to break down traditional siloed research generation and collaborate with researchers to solve a wide array of issues with the delivery of care. Practice-based research networks have promise for both researchers and clinicians in the common goal of improving patient outcomes.

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