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JUNE 27, 2018

“So what is it that you do, Claire?” In a nutshell, it’s a long story

I’m commonly met with this scenario: I’m introduced to someone new at a party and find myself in a conversation whereby after exchanging pleasantries, my new acquaintance pauses and poses the question, “So what is it that you do, Claire?”

My response typically includes a succinct clinical case example where I ask the individual to imagine themselves as a patient who visits their family doctor because of low back pain and is then assessed and managed by that doctor with the support of our clinical tool on managing low back pain in primary care. I use this scenario to segue into a brief description of the types of ‘clinical tools’ we develop, and then I complete my explanation with the caveat that this is just an example of the kind of work that we do.

While this elevator pitch has served me well at many barbecues, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all that we are up to behind the scenes or beyond the ‘tools.’ If I truly had the floor and the full engagement of my audience, where would I even begin to adequately describe our work at CEP, or more poetically, who we are as the CEP family?

We are in the knowledge translation business, the behavior change business, the evidence synthesis and program evaluation business. One might joke that all we need is a candle making business and we could be a modern-day nursery rhyme (I appreciate that this is a pretty lame joke, but stay with me here as I promise I’ll be more serious for the remainder of this post). While our work focuses predominantly in primary care, even our primary care-based initiatives tend to touch on several sectors, which is an extension of the notion that primary care providers act as a central hub through which other healthcare specialties interconnect.

As a team rooted in research and evidence appraisal, we pride ourselves in our ability to quickly identify the most recent high-quality evidence on any given healthcare topic and package it in a way that will best meet our clients’ needs. Beyond literature searches and environmental scans used to inform our own frontline clinical tools and programs, this also means engagement by our stakeholders to create syntheses on everything from system level policies and strategies, to implementation planning, to evaluation methodologies, to topic-centric best practices. Our work has supported countless stakeholder initiatives and interventions, has helped to identify provider needs in both Ontario and Canada, and has even informed high level strategic planning of provincial and national healthcare organizations.

We understand that in order for a healthcare initiative to be successful, provider input is a must. Thus, we emphasize the co-design of our programs, resources, and tools with end-user input from beginning to end. We recognize the importance of making it as easy as possible for providers to “get on board” with the evidence. It must come from a trusted source, be readily accessible and effortlessly integrated into daily workflow. We strive to incorporate user-centered design principles into our tool development process and make it a priority to ensure that programs and tools have appropriate stakeholder input. Furthermore, we work to continuously improve our existing tools and services by regularly collecting and utilizing user feedback.

Collaboration with our neighbours (both figuratively and literally, as we are currently co-located with Ontario College of Family Physicians) is a must, and we truly believe that more is not always better. Reducing inefficiencies includes connecting providers to existing resources, connecting stakeholders to each other, and cultivating a culture of adaptation and creative innovation. It turns out that the sandbox is, in fact, big enough for us all, and together we can make a bigger impact than we can as individual organizations working in silos.

Most importantly, when we do the work we do, we think about the patients. Our role is to facilitate providers to practice evidence-based care. Ultimately this means focusing on patient outcomes. What is best for the patient? How can we help providers have difficult conversations and facilitate shared decision making? How can we make sure that the patient’s values and preferences are respected while ensuring that they receive the highest-quality care? What resources can we provide to help patients with their own self-management? When developing tools that address topics such as poverty in primary care, youth mental health, and medical assistance in dying, to name a few, adopting a patient-centred perspective becomes integral to the success of that tool in improving patient outcomes.

My favorite saying when describing the CEP is that we are “small but mighty.” We believe in what we do. We are experts in this field. We are passionate about our work. We run the gamut from evidence collection to implementation and expand and contract our scope as needed – addressing everything from national, system-wide issues to local clinical topics. But when it all boils down to what truly drives us, we just want providers to have the best possible support and see patients receiving the best possible care.

And that, in a nutshell, is what I would say if I were to have the floor. To my future barbecue acquaintances, consider yourselves warned.

Written by



Claire manages a variety of provincial and national projects to support evidence uptake and knowledge translation at the Centre for Effective Practice (CEP). With a background in clinical research and knowledge management planning and initiatives, Claire’s expertise includes program evaluation, implementation support, and evidence synthesis and appraisal. She is skilled in both quantitative and qualitative research methods and has a unique specialty in clinical practice guideline methodology and appraisal.

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