BackgroundImplementation research infrequently addresses economic factors, despite the importance of understanding the costs of implementing evidence-based practices (EBPs). Though partnerships with health economists have the potential to increase attention to economic factors within implementation science, barriers to forming these collaborations have been noted. This study investigated the experiences of health economists and implementation researchers who have partnered across disciplines to inform strategies to increase such collaborations.
MethodsA purposeful sampling approach was used to identify eight health economists and eight implementation researchers with experience participating in cross-disciplinary research. We used semi-structured interviews to gather information about participants' experiences with collaborative research. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify core themes related to facilitators and barriers to collaborations.
ResultsHealth economists and implementation researchers voiced different perspectives on collaborative research, highlighting the importance of increasing cross-disciplinary understanding. Implementation researchers described a need to measure costs in implementation studies, whereas many health economists described that they seek to collaborate on projects that extend beyond conducting cost analyses. Researchers in both disciplines articulated motivations for collaborative research and identified strategies that promote successful collaboration, with varying degrees of convergence across these themes. Shared motivations included improving methodological rigor of research and making a real-world impact. Strategies to improve collaboration included starting partnerships early in the study design period, having a shared interest, and including health economists in the larger scope of the research.
ConclusionsHealth economists and implementation researchers both conduct research with significant policy implications and have the potential to inform one another's work in ways that might more rapidly advance the uptake of EBPs. Collaborative research between health economists and implementation science has the potential to advance the field; however, researchers will need to work to bridge disciplinary differences. By beginning to develop strong working relationships; increasing their understanding of one another's disciplinary culture, methodology, and language; and increasing the role economists have within research design and execution, both implementation researchers and health economists can support successful collaborations and robust and informative research.