Cluster randomized trials (CRTs) present unique ethical challenges. In the absence of a uniform standard for their ethical design and conduct, problems such as variability in procedures and requirements by different research ethics committees will persist. We aimed to assess the need for ethics guidelines for CRTs among research ethics chairs internationally, investigate variability in procedures for research ethics review of CRTs within and among countries, and elicit research ethics chairs’ perspectives on specific ethical issues in CRTs, including the identification of research subjects. The proper identification of research subjects is a necessary requirement in the research ethics review process, to help ensure, on the one hand, that subjects are protected from harm and exploitation, and on the other, that reviews of CRTs are completed efficiently.
A web-based survey with closed- and open-ended questions was administered to research ethics chairs in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The survey presented three scenarios of CRTs involving cluster-level, professional-level, and individual-level interventions. For each scenario, a series of questions was posed with respect to the type of review required (full, expedited, or no review) and the identification of research subjects at cluster and individual levels.
A total of 189 (35%) of 542 chairs responded. Overall, 144 (84%, 95% CI 79 to 90%) agreed or strongly agreed that there is a need for ethics guidelines for CRTs and 158 (92%, 95% CI 88 to 96%) agreed or strongly agreed that research ethics committees could be better informed about distinct ethical issues surrounding CRTs. There was considerable variability among research ethics chairs with respect to the type of review required, as well as the identification of research subjects. The cluster-cluster and professional-cluster scenarios produced the most disagreement.
Research ethics committees identified a clear need for ethics guidelines for CRTs and education about distinct ethical issues in CRTs. There is disagreement among committees, even within the same countries, with respect to key questions in the ethics review of CRTs. This disagreement reflects variability of opinion and practices pointing toward possible gaps in knowledge, and supports the need for explicit guidelines for the ethical conduct and review of CRTs.
Cluster randomized trials; Informed consent; Research ethics guidelines; Research ethics review; Web-based survey
The Ottawa Ethics of Cluster Trials Consensus Group sets out 15 recommendations for the ethical design and conduct of cluster randomized trials.
In the field of implementation research, there is an increased interest in use of theory when designing implementation research studies involving behavior change. In 2003, we initiated a series of five studies to establish a scientific rationale for interventions to translate research findings into clinical practice by exploring the performance of a number of different, commonly used, overlapping behavioral theories and models. We reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the methods, the performance of the theories, and consider where these methods sit alongside the range of methods for studying healthcare professional behavior change.
These were five studies of the theory-based cognitions and clinical behaviors (taking dental radiographs, performing dental restorations, placing fissure sealants, managing upper respiratory tract infections without prescribing antibiotics, managing low back pain without ordering lumbar spine x-rays) of random samples of primary care dentists and physicians. Measures were derived for the explanatory theoretical constructs in the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), and Illness Representations specified by the Common Sense Self Regulation Model (CSSRM). We constructed self-report measures of two constructs from Learning Theory (LT), a measure of Implementation Intentions (II), and the Precaution Adoption Process. We collected data on theory-based cognitions (explanatory measures) and two interim outcome measures (stated behavioral intention and simulated behavior) by postal questionnaire survey during the 12-month period to which objective measures of behavior (collected from routine administrative sources) were related. Planned analyses explored the predictive value of theories in explaining variance in intention, behavioral simulation and behavior.
Response rates across the five surveys ranged from 21% to 48%; we achieved the target sample size for three of the five surveys. For the predictor variables, the mean construct scores were above the mid-point on the scale with median values across the five behaviors generally being above four out of seven and the range being from 1.53 to 6.01. Across all of the theories, the highest proportion of the variance explained was always for intention and the lowest was for behavior. The Knowledge-Attitudes-Behavior Model performed poorly across all behaviors and dependent variables; CSSRM also performed poorly. For TPB, SCT, II, and LT across the five behaviors, we predicted median R2 of 25% to 42.6% for intention, 6.2% to 16% for behavioral simulation, and 2.4% to 6.3% for behavior.
We operationalized multiple theories measuring across five behaviors. Continuing challenges that emerge from our work are: better specification of behaviors, better operationalization of theories; how best to appropriately extend the range of theories; further assessment of the value of theories in different settings and groups; exploring the implications of these methods for the management of chronic diseases; and moving to experimental designs to allow an understanding of behavior change.
Implementation Science, like all journals, needs to continue to develop. There will always be changes we need to make as next steps in improving the Journal for readers and improving how it runs. However, we now have our first change in Editors in Chief. We are fortunate to have been able to recruit two experienced academics who are also experienced editors—Professor Michel Wensing and Dr Anne Sales. I hope you will join me in welcoming them and give them, and continue to give Implementation Science, your support.
Implementation Science has been published for six years and over that time has gone from receiving 100 articles in 2006 to receiving 354 in 2011; our impact factor has risen from 2.49 in June 2010 to 3.10 in June 2012. Whilst our article publication rate has also risen, it has risen much less slowly than our submission rate—we published 29 papers in 2006 and 134 papers in 2011 and we now publish only around 40 % of submissions. About one-half of submitted manuscripts are rejected without being sent out for peer review; it has become clear that there are a number of common issues that result in manuscripts being rejected at this stage. We hope that by publishing this editorial on our common reasons for rejection without peer review we can help authors to better judge the relevance of their papers to Implementation Science.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, we set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the CRT is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the sixth of the questions posed, namely, what is the role and authority of gatekeepers in CRTs in health research? ‘Gatekeepers’ are individuals or bodies that represent the interests of cluster members, clusters, or organizations. The need for gatekeepers arose in response to the difficulties in obtaining informed consent because of cluster randomization, cluster-level interventions, and cluster size. In this paper, we call for a more restrictive understanding of the role and authority of gatekeepers.
Previous papers in this series have provided solutions to the challenges posed by informed consent in CRTs without the need to invoke gatekeepers. We considered that consent to randomization is not required when cluster members are approached for consent at the earliest opportunity and before any study interventions or data-collection procedures have started. Further, when cluster-level interventions or cluster size means that obtaining informed consent is not possible, a waiver of consent may be appropriate. In this paper, we suggest that the role of gatekeepers in protecting individual interests in CRTs should be limited. Generally, gatekeepers do not have the authority to provide proxy consent for cluster members. When a municipality or other community has a legitimate political authority that is empowered to make such decisions, cluster permission may be appropriate; however, gatekeepers may usefully protect cluster interests in other ways. Cluster consultation may ensure that the CRT addresses local health needs, and is conducted in accord with local values and customs. Gatekeepers may also play an important role in protecting the interests of organizations, such as hospitals, nursing homes, general practices, and schools. In these settings, permission to access the organization relies on resource implications and adherence to institutional policies.
Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve healthcare. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearinghouses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this second paper, we discuss issues of identifying and synthesizing evidence: deciding what type of evidence and outcomes to include in guidelines; integrating values into a guideline; incorporating economic considerations; synthesis, grading, and presentation of evidence; and moving from evidence to recommendations.
Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve health care. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearing houses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this third paper we discuss the issues of: reviewing, reporting, and publishing guidelines; updating guidelines; and the two emerging issues of enhancing guideline implementability and how guideline developers should approach dealing with the issue of patients who will be the subject of guidelines having co-morbid conditions.
Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve health care. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearing houses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this first paper we discuss: the target audience(s) for guidelines and their use of guidelines; identifying topics for guidelines; guideline group composition (including consumer involvement) and the processes by which guideline groups function and the important procedural issue of managing conflicts of interest in guideline development.
One of the most consistent findings from clinical and health services research is the failure to translate research into practice and policy. As a result of these evidence-practice and policy gaps, patients fail to benefit optimally from advances in healthcare and are exposed to unnecessary risks of iatrogenic harms, and healthcare systems are exposed to unnecessary expenditure resulting in significant opportunity costs. Over the last decade, there has been increasing international policy and research attention on how to reduce the evidence-practice and policy gap. In this paper, we summarise the current concepts and evidence to guide knowledge translation activities, defined as T2 research (the translation of new clinical knowledge into improved health). We structure the article around five key questions: what should be transferred; to whom should research knowledge be transferred; by whom should research knowledge be transferred; how should research knowledge be transferred; and, with what effect should research knowledge be transferred?
We suggest that the basic unit of knowledge translation should usually be up-to-date systematic reviews or other syntheses of research findings. Knowledge translators need to identify the key messages for different target audiences and to fashion these in language and knowledge translation products that are easily assimilated by different audiences. The relative importance of knowledge translation to different target audiences will vary by the type of research and appropriate endpoints of knowledge translation may vary across different stakeholder groups. There are a large number of planned knowledge translation models, derived from different disciplinary, contextual (i.e., setting), and target audience viewpoints. Most of these suggest that planned knowledge translation for healthcare professionals and consumers is more likely to be successful if the choice of knowledge translation strategy is informed by an assessment of the likely barriers and facilitators. Although our evidence on the likely effectiveness of different strategies to overcome specific barriers remains incomplete, there is a range of informative systematic reviews of interventions aimed at healthcare professionals and consumers (i.e., patients, family members, and informal carers) and of factors important to research use by policy makers.
There is a substantial (if incomplete) evidence base to guide choice of knowledge translation activities targeting healthcare professionals and consumers. The evidence base on the effects of different knowledge translation approaches targeting healthcare policy makers and senior managers is much weaker but there are a profusion of innovative approaches that warrant further evaluation.
New clinical research findings may require clinicians to change their behaviour to provide high-quality care to people with type 2 diabetes, likely requiring them to change multiple different clinical behaviours. The present study builds on findings from a UK-wide study of theory-based behavioural and organisational factors associated with prescribing, advising, and examining consistent with high-quality diabetes care.
To develop and evaluate the effectiveness and cost of an intervention to improve multiple behaviours in clinicians involved in delivering high-quality care for type 2 diabetes.
We will conduct a two-armed cluster randomised controlled trial in 44 general practices in the North East of England to evaluate a theory-based behaviour change intervention. We will target improvement in six underperformed clinical behaviours highlighted in quality standards for type 2 diabetes: prescribing for hypertension; prescribing for glycaemic control; providing physical activity advice; providing nutrition advice; providing on-going education; and ensuring that feet have been examined. The primary outcome will be the proportion of patients appropriately prescribed and examined (using anonymised computer records), and advised (using anonymous patient surveys) at 12 months. We will use behaviour change techniques targeting motivational, volitional, and impulsive factors that we have previously demonstrated to be predictive of multiple health professional behaviours involved in high-quality type 2 diabetes care. We will also investigate whether the intervention was delivered as designed (fidelity) by coding audiotaped workshops and interventionist delivery reports, and operated as hypothesised (process evaluation) by analysing responses to theory-based postal questionnaires. In addition, we will conduct post-trial qualitative interviews with practice teams to further inform the process evaluation, and a post-trial economic analysis to estimate the costs of the intervention and cost of service use.
Consistent with UK Medical Research Council guidance and building on previous development research, this pragmatic cluster randomised trial will evaluate the effectiveness of a theory-based complex intervention focusing on changing multiple clinical behaviours to improve quality of diabetes care.
Falls are common in older people and increase in prevalence with advancing old age. There is limited knowledge about their impact in those aged 85 years and older, the fastest growing age group of the population. We investigated the prevalence and impact of falls, and the overlap between falls, dizziness and blackouts, in a population-based sample of 85 year olds.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from Newcastle 85+ Cohort Study. Setting: Primary care, North-East England. Participants: 816 men and women aged 85 years. Measurements: Structured interview with research nurse. Cost-consequence analysis of fall-related healthcare costs.
Over 38% (313/816) of participants had fallen at least once in the previous 12 months and of these: 10.6% (33/312) sustained a fracture, 30.1% (94/312) attended an emergency department, and 12.8% (40/312) were admitted to hospital. Only 37.2% (115/309) of fallers had specifically discussed their falls problem with their general practitioner and only 12.7% (39/308) had seen a falls specialist. The average annual healthcare cost per faller was estimated at £202 (inter-quartile range £174–£231) or US$329 ($284–$377). ‘Worry about falling’ was experienced by 42.0% (128/305) of fallers, ‘loss of confidence’ by 40.0% (122/305), and ‘going out less often’ by 25.9% (79/305); each was significantly more common in women, odds ratios (95% confidence interval) for women: men of 2.63 (1.45–4.55), 4.00 (2.27–7.14), and 2.86 (1.54–5.56) respectively. Dizziness and blackouts were reported by 40.0% (318/796) and 6.4% (52/808) of participants respectively. There was marked overlap in the report of falls, dizziness and blackouts.
Falls in 85 year olds are very common, associated with considerable psychological and physical morbidity, and have high impact on healthcare services. Wider use of fall prevention services is needed. Significant expansion in acute and preventative services is required in view of the rapid growth in this age group.
In this editorial, we reflect on the arguments for starting a scientific society focused on research on how to improve healthcare. This society would take an inclusive approach to what constitutes healthcare. For instance, it should include mental health healthcare, treatment for substance abuse, the work of allied health professions, and preventive healthcare. The society would be open to researchers from all traditions. Thus, we take an inclusive approach to what constitutes scientific research, as long as it uses rigorous methods, is focused on improving healthcare, and aims at knowledge that can be transferred across settings. The society would primarily target scientific researchers but would invite others with an interest in this area of research, regardless of their discipline, position, field of application, or group affiliation (e.g., improvement science, behavioral medicine, knowledge translation). A society would need fruitful collaboration with related societies and organizations, which may include having combined meetings. Special links may be developed with one or more journals. A website to provide information on relevant resources, events, and training opportunities is another key activity. It would also provide a voice for the field at funding agencies, political arenas, and similar institutions. An organizational structure and financial resources are required to develop and run these activities. Our aim is to start an international debate, to discover if we can establish a shared vision across academics and stakeholders engaged with creating scientific knowledge on how to improve healthcare. We invite readers to express their views in the online questionnaire accessed by following the URL link provided at the end of the editorial.
Regular laboratory test monitoring of patient parameters offers a route for improving the quality of chronic disease care. We evaluated the effects of brief educational messages attached to laboratory test reports on diabetes care.
A programme of cluster randomised controlled trials was set in primary care practices in one primary care trust in England. Participants were the primary care practices' constituent healthcare professionals and patients with diabetes. Interventions comprised brief educational messages added to paper and electronic primary care practice laboratory test reports and introduced over two phases. Phase one messages, attached to Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) reports, targeted glycaemic and cholesterol control. Phase two messages, attached to albumin:creatinine ratio (ACR) reports, targeted blood pressure (BP) control, and foot inspection. Main outcome measures comprised practice mean HbA1c and cholesterol levels, diastolic and systolic BP, and proportions of patients having undergone foot inspections.
Initially, 35 out of 37 eligible practices participated. Outcome data were available for a total of 8,690 patients with diabetes from 32 practices. The BP message produced a statistically significant reduction in diastolic BP (-0.62 mmHg; 95% confidence interval -0.82 to -0.42 mmHg) but not systolic BP (-0.06 mmHg, -0.42 to 0.30 mmHg) and increased the odds of achieving target BP control (odds ratio 1.05; 1.00, 1.10). The foot inspection message increased the likelihood of a recorded foot inspection (incidence rate ratio 1.26; 1.18 to 1.36). The glycaemic control message had no effect on mean HbA1c (increase 0.01%; -0.03 to 0.04) despite increasing the odds of a change in likelihood of HbA1c tests being ordered (OR 1.06; 1.01, 1.11). The cholesterol message had no effect (decrease 0.01 mmol/l, -0.04 to 0.05).
Three out of four interventions improved intermediate outcomes or process of diabetes care. The diastolic BP reduction approximates to relative reductions in mortality of 3% to 5% in stroke and 3% to 4% in ischaemic heart disease over 10 years. The lack of effect for other outcomes may, in part, be explained by difficulties in bringing about further improvements beyond certain thresholds of clinical performance.
Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN2186314.
Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly prevalent chronic illness and an important cause of avoidable mortality. Patients are managed by the integrated activities of clinical and non-clinical members of primary care teams. This study aimed to: investigate theoretically-based organisational, team, and individual factors determining the multiple behaviours needed to manage diabetes; and identify multilevel determinants of different diabetes management behaviours and potential interventions to improve them. This paper describes the instrument development, study recruitment, characteristics of the study participating practices and their constituent healthcare professionals and administrative staff and reports descriptive analyses of the data collected.
The study was a predictive study over a 12-month period. Practices (N = 99) were recruited from within the UK Medical Research Council General Practice Research Framework. We identified six behaviours chosen to cover a range of clinical activities (prescribing, non-prescribing), reflect decisions that were not necessarily straightforward (controlling blood pressure that was above target despite other drug treatment), and reflect recommended best practice as described by national guidelines. Practice attributes and a wide range of individually reported measures were assessed at baseline; measures of clinical outcome were collected over the ensuing 12 months, and a number of proxy measures of behaviour were collected at baseline and at 12 months. Data were collected by telephone interview, postal questionnaire (organisational and clinical) to practice staff, postal questionnaire to patients, and by computer data extraction query.
All 99 practices completed a telephone interview and responded to baseline questionnaires. The organisational questionnaire was completed by 931/1236 (75.3%) administrative staff, 423/529 (80.0%) primary care doctors, and 255/314 (81.2%) nurses. Clinical questionnaires were completed by 326/361 (90.3%) primary care doctors and 163/186 (87.6%) nurses. At a practice level, we achieved response rates of 100% from clinicians in 40 practices and > 80% from clinicians in 67 practices. All measures had satisfactory internal consistency (alpha coefficient range from 0.61 to 0.97; Pearson correlation coefficient (two item measures) 0.32 to 0.81); scores were generally consistent with good practice. Measures of behaviour showed relatively high rates of performance of the six behaviours, but with considerable variability within and across the behaviours and measures.
We have assembled an unparalleled data set from clinicians reporting on their cognitions in relation to the performance of six clinical behaviours involved in the management of people with one chronic disease (diabetes mellitus), using a range of organisational and individual level measures as well as information on the structure of the practice teams and across a large number of UK primary care practices. We would welcome approaches from other researchers to collaborate on the analysis of this data.
Psychological models predict behaviour in a wide range of settings. The aim of this study was to explore the usefulness of a range of psychological models to predict the health professional behaviour 'referral for lumbar spine x-ray in patients presenting with low back pain' by UK primary care physicians.
Psychological measures were collected by postal questionnaire survey from a random sample of primary care physicians in Scotland and north England. The outcome measures were clinical behaviour (referral rates for lumbar spine x-rays), behavioural simulation (lumbar spine x-ray referral decisions based upon scenarios), and behavioural intention (general intention to refer for lumbar spine x-rays in patients with low back pain). Explanatory variables were the constructs within the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), Common Sense Self-Regulation Model (CS-SRM), Operant Learning Theory (OLT), Implementation Intention (II), Weinstein's Stage Model termed the Precaution Adoption Process (PAP), and knowledge. For each of the outcome measures, a generalised linear model was used to examine the predictive value of each theory individually. Linear regression was used for the intention and simulation outcomes, and negative binomial regression was used for the behaviour outcome. Following this 'theory level' analysis, a 'cross-theoretical construct' analysis was conducted to investigate the combined predictive value of all individual constructs across theories.
Constructs from TPB, SCT, CS-SRM, and OLT predicted behaviour; however, the theoretical models did not fit the data well. When predicting behavioural simulation, the proportion of variance explained by individual theories was TPB 11.6%, SCT 12.1%, OLT 8.1%, and II 1.5% of the variance, and in the cross-theory analysis constructs from TPB, CS-SRM and II explained 16.5% of the variance in simulated behaviours. When predicting intention, the proportion of variance explained by individual theories was TPB 25.0%, SCT 21.5%, CS-SRM 11.3%, OLT 26.3%, PAP 2.6%, and knowledge 2.3%, and in the cross-theory analysis constructs from TPB, SCT, CS-SRM, and OLT explained 33.5% variance in intention. Together these results suggest that physicians' beliefs about consequences and beliefs about capabilities are likely determinants of lumbar spine x-ray referrals.
The study provides evidence that taking a theory-based approach enables the creation of a replicable methodology for identifying factors that predict clinical behaviour. However, a number of conceptual and methodological challenges remain.
Objectives To investigate the extent to which authors of cluster randomised trials adhered to two basic requirements of the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ uniform requirements for manuscripts (namely, reporting of research ethics review and informed consent), to determine whether the adequacy of reporting has improved over time, and to identify characteristics of cluster randomised trials associated with reporting of ethics practices.
Design Review of a random sample of published cluster randomised trials from an electronic search in Medline.
Setting Cluster randomised trials in health research published in English language journals from 2000 to 2008.
Study sample 300 cluster randomised trials published in 150 journals.
Results 77 (26%, 95% confidence interval 21% to 31%) trials failed to report ethics review. The proportion reporting ethics review increased significantly over time (P<0.001). Trials with data collection interventions at the individual level were more likely to report ethics review than were trials that used routine data sources only (79% (n=151) v 55% (23); P=0.008). Trials that accounted for clustering in the design and analysis were more likely to report ethics review. The median impact factor of the journal of publication was higher for trials that reported ethics review (3.4 v 2.3; P<0.001). 93 (31%, 26% to 36%) trials failed to report consent. Reporting of consent increased significantly over time (P<0.001). Trials with interventions targeting participants at the individual level were more likely to report consent than were trials with interventions targeting the cluster level (87% (90) v 48% (41); P<0.001). Trials with data collection interventions at the individual level were more likely to report consent than were those that used routine data sources only (78% (146) v 29% (11); P<0.001).
Conclusions Reporting of research ethics protections in cluster randomised trials is inadequate. In addition to research ethics approval, authors should report whether informed consent was sought, from whom consent was sought, and what consent was for.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, Weijer and colleagues set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the cluster trial is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the third of the questions posed, namely, does clinical equipoise apply to CRTs in health research? The ethical principle of beneficence is the moral obligation not to harm needlessly and, when possible, to promote the welfare of research subjects. Two related ethical problems have been discussed in the CRT literature. First, are control groups that receive only usual care unduly disadvantaged? Second, when accumulating data suggests the superiority of one intervention in a trial, is there an ethical obligation to act?
In individually randomized trials involving patients, similar questions are addressed by the concept of clinical equipoise, that is, the ethical requirement that, at the start of a trial, there be a state of honest, professional disagreement in the community of expert practitioners as to the preferred treatment. Since CRTs may not involve physician-researchers and patient-subjects, the applicability of clinical equipoise to CRTs is uncertain. Here we argue that clinical equipoise may be usefully grounded in a trust relationship between the state and research subjects, and, as a result, clinical equipoise is applicable to CRTs. Clinical equipoise is used to argue that control groups receiving only usual care are not disadvantaged so long as the evidence supporting the experimental and control interventions is such that experts would disagree as to which is preferred. Further, while data accumulating during the course of a CRT may favor one intervention over another, clinical equipoise supports continuing the trial until the results are likely to be broadly convincing, often coinciding with the planned completion of the trial. Finally, clinical equipoise provides research ethics committees with formal and procedural guidelines that form an important part of the assessment of the benefits and harms of CRTs in health research.
Little is known of the capabilities of the oldest old, the fastest growing age group in the population. We aimed to estimate capability and dependency in a cohort of 85 year olds and to project future demand for care.
Structured interviews at age 85 with 841 people born in 1921 and living in Newcastle and North Tyneside, UK who were permanently registered with participating general practices. Measures of capability included were self-reported activities of daily living (ADL), timed up and go test (TUG), standardised mini-mental state examination (SMMSE), and assessment of urinary continence in order to classify interval-need dependency. To project future demand for care the proportion needing 24-hour care was applied to the 2008 England and Wales population projections of those aged 80 years and over by gender.
Of participants, 62% (522/841) were women, 77% (651/841) lived in standard housing, 13% (106/841) in sheltered housing and 10% (84/841) in a care home. Overall, 20% (165/841) reported no difficulty with any of the ADLs. Men were more capable in performing ADLs and more independent than women. TUG validated self-reported ADLs. When classified by 'interval of need' 41% (332/810) were independent, 39% (317/810) required help less often than daily, 12% (94/810) required help at regular times of the day and 8% (67/810) required 24-hour care. Of care-home residents, 94% (77/82) required daily help or 24-hour care. Future need for 24-hour care for people aged 80 years or over in England and Wales is projected to increase by 82% from 2010 to 2030 with a demand for 630,000 care-home places by 2030.
This analysis highlights the diversity of capability and levels of dependency in this cohort. A remarkably high proportion remain independent, particularly men. However a significant proportion of this population require 24-hour care at home or in care homes. Projections for the next 20 years suggest substantial increases in the number requiring 24-hour care due to population ageing and a proportionate increase in demand for care-home places unless innovative health and social care interventions are found.
The cluster randomized trial (CRT) is used increasingly in knowledge translation research, quality improvement research, community based intervention studies, public health research, and research in developing countries. However, cluster trials raise difficult ethical issues that challenge researchers, research ethics committees, regulators, and sponsors as they seek to fulfill responsibly their respective roles. Our project will provide a systematic analysis of the ethics of cluster trials. Here we have outlined a series of six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the cluster trial is to be set on a firm ethical foundation:
1. Who is a research subject?
2. From whom, how, and when must informed consent be obtained?
3. Does clinical equipoise apply to CRTs?
4. How do we determine if the benefits outweigh the risks of CRTs?
5. How ought vulnerable groups be protected in CRTs?
6. Who are gatekeepers and what are their responsibilities?
Subsequent papers in this series will address each of these areas, clarifying the ethical issues at stake and, where possible, arguing for a preferred solution. Our hope is that these papers will serve as the basis for the creation of international ethical guidelines for the design and conduct of cluster randomized trials.
Organisational culture is an anthropological metaphor used to inform research and consultancy and to explain organisational environments. In recent years, increasing emphasis has been placed on the need to change organisational culture in order to improve healthcare performance. However, the precise function of organisational culture in healthcare policy often remains underspecified and the desirability and feasibility of strategies to be adopted have been called into question. The objective of this review was to determine the effectiveness of strategies to change organisational culture in order to improve healthcare performance.
We searched the following electronic databases: The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Sociological Abstracts, Web of Knowledge, PsycINFO, Business and Management, EThOS, Index to Theses, Intute, HMIC, SIGLE, and Scopus until October 2009. The Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (DARE) was searched for related reviews. We also searched the reference lists of all papers and relevant reviews identified, and we contacted experts in the field for advice on further potential studies. We considered randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or well designed quasi-experimental studies (controlled clinical trials (CCTs), controlled before and after studies (CBAs), and interrupted time series (ITS) analyses). Studies could be set in any type of healthcare organisation in which strategies to change organisational culture in order to improve healthcare performance were applied. Our main outcomes were objective measures of professional performance and patient outcome.
The search strategy yielded 4,239 records. After the full text assessment, two CBA studies were included in the review. They both assessed the impact of interventions aimed at changing organisational culture, but one evaluated the impact on work-related and personal outcomes while the other measured clinical outcomes. Both were at high risk of bias. Both reported positive results.
Current available evidence does not identify any effective, generalisable strategies to change organisational culture. Healthcare organisations considering implementing interventions aimed at changing culture should seriously consider conducting an evaluation (using a robust design, e.g., ITS) to strengthen the evidence about this topic.
The requirement for ethics review of studies submitted to Implementation Science has been unclear. Therefore, in this editorial, we set out our requirements for ethics committee review of experimental and non-experimental studies. For any study that meets the criteria of human subject research (which includes research on healthcare providers), irrespective of study design, we will require proof of either satisfactory ethics committee review or of the granting of an official exemption or waiver.
The importance of behaviour change in improving health is illustrated by the increasing investment by funding bodies in the development and evaluation of complex interventions to change population, patient, and practitioner behaviours. The development of effective interventions is hampered by the absence of a nomenclature to specify and report their content. This limits the possibility of replicating effective interventions, synthesising evidence, and understanding the causal mechanisms underlying behaviour change. In contrast, biomedical interventions are precisely specified (e.g., the pharmacological 'ingredients' of prescribed drugs, their dose and frequency of administration). For most complex interventions, the precise 'ingredients' are unknown; descriptions (e.g., 'behavioural counseling') can mean different things to different researchers or implementers. The lack of a method for specifying complex interventions undermines the precision of evidence syntheses of effectiveness, posing a problem for secondary, as well as primary, research.
We aim to develop a reliable method of specifying intervention components ('techniques') aimed at changing behaviour.
The research will be conducted in three phases. The first phase will develop the nomenclature. We will refine a preliminary list of techniques and definitions. Using a formal consensus method, experts will then define the key attributes of each technique and how it relates to, and differs from, others. They will evaluate the techniques and their definitions until they achieve an agreed-upon list of clearly defined, nonredundant techniques. The second phase will test the nomenclature. Trained experts (primary researchers and systematic reviewers), equipped with a coding manual and guidance, will use the nomenclature to code published descriptions of complex interventions. Reliability between experts, over time, and across types of users will be assessed. We will assess whether using the nomenclature to write intervention descriptions enhances the clarity and replicability of interventions. The third phase will develop a web-based users' resource of clearly specified and nonredundant techniques, which will aid the scientific understanding of, and development of, effective complex interventions. Dissemination throughout the project will be through stakeholder meetings, targeted multidisciplinary workshops, conference presentation, journal publication, and publication in an interactive web-based platform (a Wiki).
The development of a reliable method of specifying intervention components aimed at changing behaviour will strengthen the scientific basis for developing, evaluating, and reporting complex interventions. It will improve the precision of evidence syntheses of effectiveness, thus enhancing secondary, as well as primary, research.
There is a large quality of care gap for patients with osteoporosis. As a fragility fracture is a strong indicator of underlying osteoporosis, it offers an ideal opportunity to initiate investigation and treatment. However, studies of post-fracture populations document screening and treatment rates below 20% in most settings. This is despite the fact that bone mineral density (BMD) scans are effective at identifying patients at high risk of fracture, and effective drug treatments are widely available. Effective interventions are required to remedy this incongruity in current practice.
This study reviewed randomised controlled trials (RCT) involving fully qualified healthcare professionals caring for patients with a fragility fracture in all healthcare settings. Any intervention designed to modify the behaviour of healthcare professionals or implement a service delivery change was considered. The main outcomes were BMD scanning and osteoporosis treatment with anti-resorptive therapy. The electronic databases Medline and Embase were searched from 1994 to June 2010 to identify relevant articles in English. Post-intervention risk differences (RDs) were calculated for the main outcomes and any additional study primary outcomes; the trials were meta-analysed.
A total of 2814 potentially relevant articles were sifted; 18 were assessed in full text. Nine RCTs evaluating ten interventions met the inclusion criteria for the review. All were from North America. Four studies focused on patients with a hip fracture, three on fractures of the wrist/distal forearm, and two included several fracture sites consistent with a fragility fracture. All studies reported positive effects of the intervention for the main study outcomes of BMD scanning and osteoporosis treatment. For BMD scanning the overall risk ratio (95% CI) was 2.8 (2.16 to 3.64); the RD was 36% (21% to 50%). For treatment with anti-resorptive therapy the overall risk ratio (95% CI) was 2.48 (1.92 to 3.2); the RD was 20% (10% to 30%).
All interventions produced positive effects on BMD scanning and osteoporosis treatment rates post-fracture. Despite sizeable increases, investigation and treatment rates remain sub-optimal. Long-term compliance with osteoporosis medications needs to be addressed, as the majority of studies reported treatment rates at six-month follow up only. Studies would be more informative if treatment criteria were defined a priori to facilitate understanding of whether patients were being treated appropriately and integrated economic analyses would be helpful for informing policy implementation decisions.