Research: Introduction

Last updated: Friday, March 24, 2017

Perhaps the 'ultimate' in problem solving is to conduct your own research: you have a question and want an answer, so you undertake a study to find out. Most hospital pharmacists who undertake research tend to investigate pharmacy practice and service developments. This kind of research seeks to understand the way pharmacists operate, their impact, and how the pharmacist's knowledge and skills should best be used to meet the needs of NHS patients. Here are some typical examples:

  • Do ward managers know about the on-call pharmacist service, and what do they think of it?
  • How can pharmacy best highlight serious potential prescribing risks in an e-prescribing system?
  • What do inpatients most want to know about a newly-prescribed medicine when counselled by a pharmacist?
  • Does a pharmacist-run anticoagulant clinic prevent raised INRs and bleeding?
  • What's the best way to train band 6 pharmacists to deliver medicines reconciliation?

There are many reasons why research might be needed, and some of these are shown in the diagram below.

Research vs audit

The objective of research is to generate new knowledge; the findings can be used as evidence to define what should happen in practice. Audit, on the other hand, is concerned with investigating whether a service meets a defined standard: it usually compares actual practice with an authoritative guideline.

A helpful quote that summarises this difference: "Research is concerned with discovering the right thing to do; audit is ensuring it is done right" (Smith, R. 1992, Audit & Research, BMJ, 305:905-6). The table below offers some examples of each type of project.