Better evidence
Staying at the forefront of scientific advances

Advancing how the real-world impact of health and medical research is measured

Research that improves patients’ lives matters deeply to the funders, institutions and researchers who dedicate their resources to medical and health research. But evaluating the impact of this research on policy and guidelines is traditionally measured by standard scholarly metrics in the absence of more targeted analysis that relates explicitly to health improvement.

BMJ Group and the pioneering technology start-up, Overton, set out to address this challenge by collaborating to develop BMJ Impact Analytics, the first research impact tool focused on health and social care. It was launched in January 2023, and shortlisted in June 2023 as a finalist for the prestigious Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) Award for Innovation in Publishing 2023.2

The concept of real-world impact has gained importance in the past decade due to budget cuts and the public questioning the value of research funding. Traditional scholarly metrics do not sufficiently measure impact, since they need to capture how research improves people’s lives. BMJ Impact Analytics helps to fill this gap by providing evidence of research being cited in policy and guidelines.

We chose to partner with BMJ Group because of their expertise and reach in the medical research community. Their existing relationships and global presence made the organisation a valuable partner. Additionally, BMJ Group’s mission-driven approach aligned with our values at Overton.

Euan Adie
Founder and Director Overton

Kamran Abbasi

Delivering impactful science and journalism

Kamran Abbasi, Editor in chief, The BMJ Journal

Impact, influence, and healthcare expertise are all the mainstay for global organisations, and we are benchmarked against the very best. Through the voice and global recognition of our flagship journal, The BMJ, we stimulate informed debate and encourage better medical research and education that lead to improved patient outcomes.

Our Investigations Unit’s work adds to The BMJ’s reputation as a world-renowned agent of change. Over the past year our investigative journalism has:

Raised questions over lack of “substantial evidence” for FDA approved antibiotic, Recarbrio.3 We highlighted the deterioration of safety standards at the FDA4 and warned of an era where drug effectiveness becomes an afterthought in regulatory approval.

Uncovered that the National Health Service (NHS) paid private hospitals £2bn in the pandemic to meet NHS demand, but that some private hospitals still treated more private patients than NHS ones,5 reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability between public funding and private delivery of healthcare.

Led an investigation in partnership with The Guardian, finding that hospital trusts fail to protect staff and patients against sexual assault and harassment in the NHS.6 Our investigation revealed that only one in ten NHS trusts has a dedicated policy to deal with sexual assault and harassment, leading to a call in Parliament for a new and improved sexual complaints system.7

Leading the world of medical journals in patient partnerships

Providing increased access to the opinions and perspectives of patients; unfiltered and first hand

Patient insights and experiences bring a critical dimension to our work and thinking. We view these partnerships as an ethical imperative, essential for enhancing the quality, safety, value, and sustainability of health systems.15 Whether in research or education, we collaborate with patient editors, patient and public reviewers, and a patient advisory panel to ensure our content and information are directly relevant to policy making and clinical practice.

Our proactive measures to promote patient and public involvement in the co-production of research help us recognise its significant impact on improving healthcare delivery and outcomes.16 A few journals have embraced patient and public review, but it is The BMJ Group that continues to lead the way in this important initiative.


of research papers first submitted to The BMJ in 2022 and sent out for peer review were also sent to a patient and public reviewer for their opinion


of BMJ Best Practice patient leaflets have been reviewed by the patient panel (as at end 2022)

This shift is driven by empirical evidence17 showing that involving patients in healthcare decision-making enhances overall satisfaction with care, regardless of the decisions made and clinical outcomes. Shared decision-making particularly yields the highest satisfaction levels.18 In the past three years, between 60% and 75% of our annual events have included a patient representative on their committees, and we’re working hard to increase this.

It is essential to acknowledge the challenges associated with this endeavour, particularly the considerable resources required to establish and manage new patient and public reviewer lists. Despite these obstacles, we are always looking for new ways to build better processes and maintain the high standards we have set.

Advancing equity in open access publishing

At BMJ Group, we want to support authors from low and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) to publish their research by means of open access in their journal of choice.

Our waiver policy has been updated so that all BMJ journals offer waivers for the full Article Processing Charge (APC) with a 100% discount for authors in LMICs.19 We will always consider discount requests from countries not currently covered by that policy on a case-by-case basis. BMJ Group has been giving free online access to our journals via Research4Life (R4L) for over 20 years. With other publishers participating in the R4L initiative, resources have collectively been provided to more than 11,000 institutions in 125 LMIC countries.

“BMJ Group involves patients from the outset. Engaging communities in this way has gained traction and is growing, such as helping to build resilient healthcare systems in response to health emergencies. It’s one of those occasions where BMJ Group got ahead of the game from its competitors.”

Dr Luis Gabriel Cuervo
Senior Advisor, Washington, USA and Colombia

In 2022, 55.9% of all LMIC-originated research was published open access, up from 36.4% in 2021.