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Maximising stakeholder engagement to prioritise future research

Author: Natalie Kennie-Kaulbach, Jennifer E. Isenor and Sarah Kehoe

This post was originally published by the Evidence & Policy blog on October 27, 2021.

We have re-issued the article that has already been published by the Evidence & Policy blog. We would like to express gratitude to the kind offer of the editorial board of the Evidence & Policy blog.

How can complex research results be shared with diverse stakeholder groups? How can stakeholders be engaged in generating future research priorities? How can diverse stakeholder voices be represented?

The transfer of knowledge gained from research to stakeholders is becoming increasingly important for the uptake of results into policy and practice and to inform the direction of future research. We take this opportunity to share our perspectives on maximising stakeholder engagement and strategies for successful uptake.

In our Evidence & Policy article, ‘Use of a knowledge exchange event strategy to identify key priorities for implementing deprescribing in primary healthcare in Nova Scotia, Canada’, we provide an example of how to engage stakeholders in an efficient and meaningful way using an integrated Knowledge Exchange Event Process.

The Optimizing Therapy Through Collaboration (OPTx) Team completed a scoping review of international literature to identify and categorise strategies for deprescribing in primary healthcare and a qualitative study to describe the influencers of deprescribing for local primary health care providers (family physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists). To share the results of the two studies and to determine and prioritise deprescribing strategies for local implementation with stakeholders, the team decided there was a need to employ an effective method to achieve both goals. We decided that a face-to-face half-day Knowledge Exchange Event, using an interactive approach with stakeholders, would meet these goals by engaging diverse stakeholders in a way that appreciated the limited time they have available and by providing research findings in an accessible format. This event consisted of a multi-step process involving sharing of knowledge synthesis tools, pre-event stakeholder input surveys, event discussion using a World Café approach, and stakeholder prioritisation of strategies using a Nominal Group Technique.

We declared the Knowledge Exchange Event to be successful due to the high level of engagement of individual stakeholders (i.e., plenty of discussion and participants wanting more time to continue discussions), and the voiced expression of appreciation for the opportunity to discuss the topic with diverse stakeholder groups and to develop common ground on issues related to deprescribing medications. Stakeholders also provided very positive feedback on the event in post-event evaluations. In addition, we met our objective of obtaining stakeholder priorities to inform future research.

What were our drivers for a successful Knowledge Exchange Event? Below are our key strategies for successful stakeholder engagement.

  1. Targeting of Relevant Stakeholders. We used our networks and team members to identify key stakeholders, including frontline healthcare professionals, policymakers and patient advisors, to ensure we included those involved with or impacted by deprescribing.

  2. Development of Stakeholder Friendly Knowledge Synthesis Tools. Knowing that our stakeholders are busy and have limited time, we synthesised the background evidence from the scoping review and qualitative study into a brief summary with infographics that was sent to participants before the meeting and briefly discussed at the beginning of the meeting.

  3. Pre-Event Engagement of Stakeholders. To obtain participants’ input into the key areas of importance for discussion during the Knowledge Exchange Event, we sent 2 pre-event surveys (using a Modified Delphi Method) to stakeholders in advance. This helped us identify 5 key topic themes to discuss during the event.

  4. Facilitation to Encourage Voices for All Stakeholders. We used an interactive facilitated group approach (World Café) to enable group discussion containing a mix of representatives from each stakeholder group. In addition, table topic facilitators ensured that everyone had an opportunity to provide input.

  5. Stakeholders Identify Priorities. Key themes identified in the table discussions were rapidly summarised and presented to the participants for final discussion. To ensure that all stakeholders’ perspectives were taken into account and everyone had an equal vote, participants were asked to anonymously rank their top ten themes (using a modified Nominal Group Technique) to prioritise future deprescribing initiatives in Nova Scotia.

Using this interactive knowledge exchange approach, 12 key priorities were identified that need to be addressed to implement deprescribing strategies in Nova Scotia. Reflecting on the event, the team felt that the knowledge exchange process enhanced the representation of the stakeholder perspective in both the identification and description of key priorities, due to their strong expressed value in striving for a common understanding of deprescribing, collaboration between all stakeholders involved in deprescribing in practice, and discovery of strategies and opportunities that were relevant to all stakeholders in the primary care system. The OPTx team is currently working on grants for funding opportunities to support a key priority area related to healthcare provider and student deprescribing education.

We share this example of how we planned and executed a Knowledge Exchange Event that successfully transferred research knowledge to stakeholders, using active engagement strategies, which resulted in the generation of new knowledge by stakeholders to prioritise future research.


Dr. Natalie Kennie-Kaulbach is an Assistant Professor at the Dalhousie University College of Pharmacy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Dr. Jennifer E. Isenor is an Associate Professor at the Dalhousie University College of Pharmacy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Sarah Kehoe is a Research Assistant with Mental Health & Addictions at IWK Health. This work post was completed on behalf of the OPTx Team.


You can read the original research in Evidence & Policy:

Kennie-Kaulbach, N. Kehoe, S. Whelan, AM. Reeve, E. Bai, I. Burgess, S. Kits, O. and Isenor, JE. (2021). Use of a knowledge exchange event strategy to identify key priorities for implementing deprescribing in primary healthcare in Nova Scotia, Canada. Evidence & Policy, DOI: 10.1332/174426421X16141831484350.


Image credit: Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash


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