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Collaborative review of pilot projects to inform policy: A methodological remedy for pilotitis?

Pim Kuipers1*, John S Humphreys2, John Wakerman1, Robert Wells3, Judith Jones2 and Philip Entwistle1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Remote Health (a joint Centre of Flinders University & Charles Darwin University), Alice Springs, NT, Australia

2 Monash University School of Rural Health, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

3 Menzies Centre for Health Policy & College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Australian National University, Acton, ACT, Australia

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Australia and New Zealand Health Policy 2008, 5:17  doi:10.1186/1743-8462-5-17

Published: 19 July 2008



In rural health and other health service development contexts, there is frustration with a reliance on pilot projects as a means of informing policy and service innovation. There is also an emerging recognition that existing research methods do not draw lessons from the failed sustainability that characterises many of these pilots and demonstration projects.


This article describes critical aspects of the methodology of a successful collaborative, multi-method, systematic synthesis of exemplary primary health care pilot projects in rural and remote Australia, which synthesised principles from a number of pilot projects to inform policy makers and planners. Hallmarks of the method were: the nature of the source materials for the research, the subsequent research engagement with the actual pilot projects, the extent of collaboration throughout the study with end-users from policy and planning arenas, and the attention to procedural quality.


The methodology, while time consuming, has resulted in applied, policy-relevant findings, and evidence of consideration by policy-makers.