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Research | Getting Started | Research ideas

Getting Started | Research ideas

Top Priority Research Ideas

As part of the UKMI Research Strategy selected users of the service and the UKMi Executive identified the following as the most important specific research projects for national research:

1.       What impact does the UKMi enquiry answering service have on patient care?

2.       What economic impact do UKMi services and products have for the NHS? What are the costs and benefits?

3.       Are UKMi internet resources (e.g. new product reviews, news) used by healthcare professionals in the care of individual patients?

4.       How can UKMi best support 24/7 NHS services?

5.       What can UKMi contribute to the management and maintenance of electronic prescribing systems?




However, listed below are other research topics which UKMi and service users have identified. They are presented in the five categories which UKMi Executive recommends as the main areas for MI research in the National Research Strategy:


    • Patient care
    • Service performance and quality
    • Partnerships and users of the service
    • Information technology
    • Personnel and training


Patient Care

  • What proportion of enquiries to MI centres are actually concerned with individual patient care? Could this be quantified nationally?
  • What is the real impact of information supplied by the MI department on patient care? Does MI have any impact on patient quality of life, readmission rates or death rates? What are the relevant patient outcomes and what methods can be used to assess the impact of MI?
  • What do professionals do with the information supplied to them by MI when an individual patient is involved? Do they take notice of it and how does it change their behaviour when caring for patients?
  • Is UKMi advice given over the phone correctly received, interpreted and used?
  • How is the input of MI into patient care documented by enquirers?
  • What is the impact on reducing risk for patients where a full time dedicated MI service is available?
  • What would patients think of an out-of-hours medicines information hotline? Is there a role for MI in this arena, or is it a better use of resources to provide support to NHS Direct?
  • Are there other methods by which MI can supply information or advice to patients or the public directly? What methods would be best suited to this?
  • How can MI address inpatients' needs for information about their medicines?
  • What is the best way to get NHS evaluated information to the public and to patients?
  • Is information taken from MI websites or bulletins used by healthcare professioanls to affect patient care?
  • Should MI pharmacists work more closely with national patient care and self-help groups? What benefits are there? Which special patient groups would benefit most from regular liaison with an MI pharmacist?
  • Do patient information leaflets reduce patients need for advice about drug therapy or does it increase it by raising their expectation for information or their awareness of specific potential problems?
  • How can UKMi work nationally to minimise duplication in provision of policies for patient care (e.g. IV drug monographs, medicines management policies)? Is a local focus for these products needed? If so, what drives the perception or genuine need for “local focus”?
  • What are the outcomes for patients and/or enquirers of enquiries perceived by the MI pharmacist as an ethical dilemma? Was the course of action taken by the MI pharmacist appropriate?
  • Are enquiries perceived as ethical dilemmas by MI pharmacists regarded as such by enquirers?
  • What are MI pharmacists' appreciation of the ethical issues surrounding information supply direct to patients?
  • Does the referral and handover of complex medicines calls from NHS Direct to UKMi confer any benefit to the patient/caller compared to those handled by NHS Direct staff themselves with or without support from UKMi?


Service Performance and Quality

  • How can the current, nationally agreed audit procedure for MI centres in the UK be validated? How much inter-auditor variability is there in the application of national audit criteria? From whose perspective is audit undertaken and are MI staff able to deliver the service required?
  • Can national audit criteria be used to compare all MI centres nationally year-on-year? Is there value in establishing "league tables"?
  • What methods can be used to assess the quality of enquiry answers? How can the influence of subjectivity be reduced?
  • How can the principles of benchmarking be applied to the enquiry answering process in MI centres? Is it possible to issue a test question to a range of MI centres, compare the answering processes, and the answer itself, and learn from this process?
  • What value is there in recording telephone responses to enquiries? If it is valuable what is the most economic method for the NHS to use?
  • How do audit and quality assurance procedures for MI in the UK compare with practices in other countries?
  • How do methods of quality assurance used in MI compare with other healthcare information providers? How do they compare with information providers in non-healthcare settings?
  • Are there barriers or constraints that local MI pharmacists perceive as preventing them delivering an effective MI service?
  • What are the resource implications of implementing the paperless enquiry management system MiDatabank?
  • How much does it cost to answer an MI enquiry? What variation is there across the UK? Which types of enquiry cost the most to answer?
  • Does an MI service save the NHS money? How can this be quantified?
  • How long would it take an MI pharmacist and a non-MI pharmacist to answer the same enquiry correctly? How would an MI pharmacist compare with a GP or hospital doctor? What are the financial savings associated with professional time saved by the work of MI?
  • Does an MI service always advise on the most cost-effective treatment option when answering enquiries?
  • What are the best methods for identifying and managing project work in an MI centre?
  • Can an MI pharmacist work efficiently from home? What are the barriers and how can they be overcome?
  • Does a local adverse drug reaction reporting scheme, co-ordinated by an MI centre, affect the incidence of subsequent adverse reactions? How do hospitals that do and do not operate such schemes compare?
  • How does the national organisation of the MI service in the UK compare with that in other countries?
  • How can the complexity of enquiries be assessed consistently? Has the complexity of enquiries tackled by MI centres increased over the past decade? If yes, what impact does this have for service provision?
  • What role can MI play in reducing medication errors?
  • How often can an MI Centre not help an enquirer at all?
  • How often are calls to an MI Centre directed elsewhere? Who are they directed to? Why did the enquirer think that an MI Centre might have been able to help?
  • How do MI centres prioritise enquiries waiting to be answered? What methods are used and what are their relative merits? Would national guidance be helpful?
  • How often does MI meet the enquirer's deadline for provision of an answer to an enquiry?
  • Setting aside ethical issues, what types of enquiry do MI pharmacists consider it inappropriate for them to answer? Why do they think this? What do they do about them when they arise? How often do they arise?
  • What is a manageable and appropriate enquiry workload for one MI pharmacist?
  • How much overlap is there between the MI bulletins produced nationally? Is there scope for rationalisation?
  • How much does it cost to write, check and publish UKMi national publications, and can the costs be justified?
  • How often do UKMI website materials, speed up the enquiry answering process in an MI centre? Can the time saved be quantified?
  • What methods are used by MI pharmacists to ensure that any time spent with pharmaceutical company representatives is helpful and not just a sales pitch?
  • What is the value of peer review in enquiry answering?
  • What is the impact on medicines use of the critical appraisal products issued by MI?
  • What impact does the Prescribing Outlook portfolio have on budget setting and how accurate are the predictions?

Information Technology


  • What do MI pharmacists see as the good and bad sides of the use of the internet for answering enquiries about medicines? Could this be used to construct a national guideline for new MI pharmacists or for the health service in general?
  • How do MI pharmacists document information gleaned from the internet when using it to answer enquiries? Are these methods sufficient to enable retrieval of the data at a later stage?
  • What methods to MI pharmacists use when deciding if information from a particular website is reliable?
  • Can MI accredit drug-related websites for the NHS? How should this be done?
  • What information for patients should be included on the NeLM?
  • What are the basic IT skills that MI pharmacists require? How can a baseline be established and what methods can be used to determine that this baseline is met?
  • How "paperless" can an MI centre become? What are the obstacles to stopping all use of paper?
  • What is the best method for teaching literature searching techniques? Do MI pharmacists learn these techniques better from personal 1:1 demonstration, on-line tutorials, a manual or just doing it?
  • What are the comparative or additional benefits of Embase over Medline in obtaining relevant evidence for medicines-related issues?
  • Are comparatively expensive databases such as DrugDex and Adis R&D Insight good value for money for an MI service? How do they compare to alternatives?


Partnerships and Users of the Service

  • How can MI best support drug procurement services in healthcare?
  • Primary and secondary care pharmacists with a non-MI background: what are their views of MI pharmacists and of UKMI? Do they understand the MI pharmacist's roles, abilities and outputs?
  • Do non-pharmacist healthcare professionals understand the MI pharmacist's role?
  • Should MI pharmacists be involved more with the teaching of junior doctors? What can MI contribute?
  • Should the functions of an MI service and the skills involved be taught to undergraduate pharmacists?
  • What support can UKMi contribute to PCTs and SHAs? What support do they need?
  • How can librarians and MI pharmacists work together? What resources can be shared between them?
  • Are librarians or MI pharmacists better at retrieving information about medicines?
  • What are the respective roles of librarians and MI pharmacists, locally and nationally, in encouraging an evidence based approach to drug therapy and medicines management?
  • What are the training requirements of PCT pharmacists that MI can help with?
  • What information sources do PCT pharmacists find most helpful in resolving enquiries about medicines? What are the minimum information resources that a PCT pharmacist should have access to?
  • What are the proactive medicines information requirements of clinical and directorate pharmacists in secondary care?
  • Should MI pharmacists teach other secondary and primary care pharmacists how to use the internet? How should such training be organised? What subjects should be covered and how do those receiving it, rate it?
  • Do industry sponsored educational meetings about drug therapy benefit pharmacists?
  • Can NHS MI pharmacists learn skills from those working in medical information departments of pharmaceutical companies?
  • How do different professionals with an information role react to the same or similar question perceived as an ethical dilemma by UKMi (eg librarians, NHS Direct)?  What do healthcare professionals without a formal information provision role think?
  • What is the effect of pharmaceutical industry sponsorship of health service events or posts and subsequent use of that company's products locally?
  • Why do users choose to use an MI service? What factors influence their decision to approach the service for information? How do users find out about the service?
  • What influences users to use the service again? Why do some professionals not re-use the MI service?
  • How often do users feel that the MI pharmacist failed to understand their requirement for information or advice?
  • Is information provided by MI used to change prescribing practice? If so, is this communicated to enquirers' colleagues so that their practice is changed as well?
  • Why do community pharmacists make such little use of the MI service?
  • Within a specific user group, are there differences between the demography of users compared to non-users - eg race, age, sex, location?
  • Why do some individuals not use an MI service at all? Where do they get their information from?
  • What are the characteristics of users that MI pharmacists see as a "inappropriate" users? What strategies can be used to deal with these callers?
  • What effect does publicising an MI service to local GP practices have on their use of the MI service? What are the best methods to do this?
  • What are the effects of various types of publicity on use of the MI service?
  • What factors would satisfied and unsatisfied users like to see taken into consideration when assessing the quality of the MI service?

Personnel and Training


  • What is the impact of existing UKMi training strategies(eg Training Workbook, MiCAL) on participant performance?
  • What are the experiences and skills required to become an advanced or consultant MI pharmacist?
  • Why do people decide to work in an MI Centre? What influences pharmacists to choose this as a career path? Why do technicians see this as a desirable option?
  • Why do people leave MI and choose to do other jobs? What other jobs do they do? Do they feel that MI has equipped them well for other career options, and if so how?
  • Why do some people stay in MI for a long time? What are the determinants of retention?
  • What is the ideal skill mix for an MI Centre? Can this be related to output?
  • Do any of the following affect retention of staff in an MI centre: use of a competency framework, implementation of a formal CPD programme, career breaks, exchanges with other pharmaceutical/ information disciplines?
  • What is the impact of seconding NHS MI staff to an industry Medical Information department on subsequent performance in secondary care?
  • Do MI staff benefit from a media training course when answering queries?
  • Can a national competency framework be used to improve the MI service? How can any changes be measured?
  • What methods can be used to assess MI pharmacists' communication skills? What resources are available for MI pharmacists who need to improve their skills?
  • Is there value in constructing a database of examples of “ethical dilemmas” for teaching purposes? What teaching methods are best suited to this topic?
  • What do MI pharmacists think of the current ethical guidance provided by UKMI?
  • How can the cost-effectiveness of an MI pharmacist and an MI technician be compared when answering enquiries?
  • What are the costs vs benefits of non-pharmacists working in MI (eg librarians, life science graduates)?
  • What training about MI is given to undergraduates in the UK?  How does training compare and can UKMi offer guidance on content for schools of pharmacy?