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1.  The ethics of future trials: qualitative analysis of physicians’ decision making 
Trials  2016;17:12.
The decision to conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in a field raises ethical as well as scientific issues. From the clinical equipoise literature, future trials are justifiable if there is ”honest, professional disagreement in the community of expert practitioners as to the preferred treatment”. Empirical data are sparse about how clinicians apply the principles of equipoise to the justification of future RCTs. For example, selective decontamination of the digestive tract (SDD) is not widely used in critical care practice despite the strength of the evidence base and therefore provides a unique opportunity to learn how clinicians think about the ethics of further RCTs in critical care.
In an international interview study of views of healthcare professionals about SDD, we undertook a secondary analysis of qualitative data collected using a Theoretical Domains Framework of clinical behaviour. We adopted a general descriptive approach to explore how physicians determined whether another RCT of SDD is ethical. Following a constant comparison approach, three investigators reviewed 54 purposively chosen transcripts from three international regions. We interpreted the data using thematic analysis.
We grouped participants’ responses into four inter-related themes: 1) cultural norms about evidence and practice within healthcare; 2) personal views about what evidence is current or applicable; 3) the interpersonal and relational nature of professional decision making locally; and 4) an a priori commitment to future trials. The analysis also identified several unresolved tensions regarding when a future RCT should be pursued. These tensions focused on a clash between potential benefits to current individual patients and potential future harms to patients more broadly.
Our study suggests that ethical decision making about future RCTs in the field of SDD does not rely strongly on appeals to evidence, even when the quality of the evidence is reasonably high. Rather, “extra-evidential” reasons, including social, professional, and relational factors, seem to influence opinions regarding the ethics of future trials. Further work is required to see if these conclusions are applicable to other clinical topics and settings.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13063-015-1137-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4704430  PMID: 26739307
Ethics; Clinical equipoise; Harm-benefit analysis; Critical care; Evidence-based medicine; Qualitative research; Randomized controlled trials
2.  Improving appropriate polypharmacy for older people in primary care: selecting components of an evidence-based intervention to target prescribing and dispensing 
The use of multiple medicines (polypharmacy) is increasingly common in older people. Ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate combinations of medications (appropriate polypharmacy) is a significant challenge. The quality of evidence to support the effectiveness of interventions to improve appropriate polypharmacy is low. Systematic identification of mediators of behaviour change, using the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF), provides a theoretically robust evidence base to inform intervention design. This study aimed to (1) identify key theoretical domains that were perceived to influence the prescribing and dispensing of appropriate polypharmacy to older patients by general practitioners (GPs) and community pharmacists, and (2) map domains to associated behaviour change techniques (BCTs) to include as components of an intervention to improve appropriate polypharmacy in older people in primary care.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of each healthcare professional (HCP) group using tailored topic guides based on TDF version 1 (12 domains). Questions covering each domain explored HCPs’ perceptions of barriers and facilitators to ensuring the prescribing and dispensing of appropriate polypharmacy to older people. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data analysis involved the framework method and content analysis. Key domains were identified and mapped to BCTs based on established methods and discussion within the research team.
Thirty HCPs were interviewed (15 GPs, 15 pharmacists). Eight key domains were identified, perceived to influence prescribing and dispensing of appropriate polypharmacy: ‘Skills’, ‘Beliefs about capabilities’, ‘Beliefs about consequences’, ‘Environmental context and resources’, ‘Memory, attention and decision processes’, ‘Social/professional role and identity’, ‘Social influences’ and ‘Behavioural regulation’. Following mapping, four BCTs were selected for inclusion in an intervention for GPs or pharmacists: ‘Action planning’, ‘Prompts/cues’, ‘Modelling or demonstrating of behaviour’ and ‘Salience of consequences’. An additional BCT (‘Social support or encouragement’) was selected for inclusion in a community pharmacy-based intervention in order to address barriers relating to interprofessional working that were encountered by pharmacists.
Selected BCTs will be operationalised in a theory-based intervention to improve appropriate polypharmacy for older people, to be delivered in GP practice and community pharmacy settings. Future research will involve development and feasibility testing of this intervention.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-015-0349-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4647274  PMID: 26573745
Polypharmacy; Intervention; Qualitative; Behaviour change; Prescribing; Dispensing; Theoretical Domains Framework
3.  Identifying the domains of context important to implementation science: a study protocol 
There is growing recognition that “context” can and does modify the effects of implementation interventions aimed at increasing healthcare professionals’ use of research evidence in clinical practice. However, conceptual clarity about what exactly comprises “context” is lacking. The purpose of this research program is to develop, refine, and validate a framework that identifies the key domains of context (and their features) that can facilitate or hinder (1) healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice and (2) the effectiveness of implementation interventions.
A multi-phased investigation of context using mixed methods will be conducted. The first phase is a concept analysis of context using the Walker and Avant method to distinguish between the defining and irrelevant attributes of context. This phase will result in a preliminary framework for context that identifies its important domains and their features according to the published literature. The second phase is a secondary analysis of qualitative data from 13 studies of interviews with 312 healthcare professionals on the perceived barriers and enablers to their application of research evidence in clinical practice. These data will be analyzed inductively using constant comparative analysis. For the third phase, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with key health system stakeholders and change agents to elicit their knowledge and beliefs about the contextual features that influence the effectiveness of implementation interventions and healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice. Results from all three phases will be synthesized using a triangulation protocol to refine the context framework drawn from the concept analysis. The framework will then be assessed for content validity using an iterative Delphi approach with international experts (researchers and health system stakeholders/change agents).
This research program will result in a framework that identifies the domains of context and their features that can facilitate or hinder: (1) healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice and (2) the effectiveness of implementation interventions. The framework will increase the conceptual clarity of the term “context” for advancing implementation science, improving healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice, and providing greater understanding of what interventions are likely to be effective in which contexts.
PMCID: PMC4584460  PMID: 26416206
4.  Specifying active components of educational interventions to promote adherence to treatment in glaucoma patients: application of a taxonomy of behavior change techniques 
In response to recent calls for clearer specification of behavior change interventions, the purpose of this study was to apply a system of taxonomy for behavior change techniques (BCTs) to two educational interventions to improve adherence to glaucoma eye drops. Clarification of constituent BCTs will promote easy and reliable application of the interventions in clinical settings and research.
A published taxonomy of BCTs was used to code two interventions (group and individual) to increase adherence to eye drops. Intervention materials were coded by assigning a BCT label to each text unit. We noted the frequency with which each BCT occurred, compared the interventions in terms of the BCTs that were delivered, and identified whether the taxonomy was sufficient to describe the intervention components.
The individual intervention consisted of 94 text units. Fifty-seven were identified as targeting behavior change and coded using 18 BCTs, many coded more than once. In the group intervention, 165 units of text were identified, and 125 were coded using 22 BCTs. The most frequently coded BCT was “provide information about behavior–health link” in the group intervention and “prompt barrier identification” in the individual intervention. The interventions included similar BCTs. All text units targeting behavior change were codable into BCTs.
The similarity of the two interventions may have implications for the cost-effectiveness of the interventions. The taxonomy was found sufficient to describe both interventions. This level of specification can be used to ensure that precisely the same intervention that has been pilot tested is reproducible in the clinical setting and in any further research.
PMCID: PMC4501351  PMID: 26185475
behavior change techniques; glaucoma; adherence
5.  Evaluation of the fidelity of an interactive face-to-face educational intervention to improve general practitioner management of back pain 
BMJ Open  2015;5(7):e007886.
Implementation intervention effects can only be fully realised and understood if they are faithfully delivered. However the evaluation of implementation intervention fidelity is not commonly undertaken. The IMPLEMENT intervention was designed to improve the management of low back pain by general medical practitioners. It consisted of a two-session interactive workshop, including didactic presentations and small group discussions by trained facilitators. This study aimed to evaluate the fidelity of the IMPLEMENT intervention by assessing: (1) observed facilitator adherence to planned behaviour change techniques (BCTs); (2) comparison of observed and self-reported adherence to planned BCTs and (3) variation across different facilitators and different BCTs.
The study compared planned and actual, and observed versus self-assessed delivery of BCTs during the IMPLEMENT workshops.
Workshop sessions were audiorecorded and transcribed verbatim. Observed adherence of facilitators to the planned intervention was assessed by analysing the workshop transcripts in terms of BCTs delivered. Self-reported adherence was measured using a checklist completed at the end of each workshop session and was compared with the ‘gold standard’ of observed adherence using sensitivity and specificity analyses.
The overall observed adherence to planned BCTs was 79%, representing moderate-to-high intervention fidelity. There was no significant difference in adherence to BCTs between the facilitators. Sensitivity of self-reported adherence was 95% (95% CI 88 to 98) and specificity was 30% (95% CI 11 to 60).
The findings suggest that the IMPLEMENT intervention was delivered with high levels of adherence to the planned intervention protocol.
Trial registration number
The IMPLEMENT trial was registered in the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ACTRN012606000098538 (
PMCID: PMC4499726  PMID: 26155819
6.  Developing a targeted, theory-informed implementation intervention using two theoretical frameworks to address health professional and organisational factors: a case study to improve the management of mild traumatic brain injury in the emergency department 
Despite the availability of evidence-based guidelines for the management of mild traumatic brain injury in the emergency department (ED), variations in practice exist. Interventions designed to implement recommended behaviours can reduce this variation. Using theory to inform intervention development is advocated; however, there is no consensus on how to select or apply theory. Integrative theoretical frameworks, based on syntheses of theories and theoretical constructs relevant to implementation, have the potential to assist in the intervention development process. This paper describes the process of applying two theoretical frameworks to investigate the factors influencing recommended behaviours and the choice of behaviour change techniques and modes of delivery for an implementation intervention.
A stepped approach was followed: (i) identification of locally applicable and actionable evidence-based recommendations as targets for change, (ii) selection and use of two theoretical frameworks for identifying barriers to and enablers of change (Theoretical Domains Framework and Model of Diffusion of Innovations in Service Organisations) and (iii) identification and operationalisation of intervention components (behaviour change techniques and modes of delivery) to address the barriers and enhance the enablers, informed by theory, evidence and feasibility/acceptability considerations. We illustrate this process in relation to one recommendation, prospective assessment of post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) by ED staff using a validated tool.
Four recommendations for managing mild traumatic brain injury were targeted with the intervention. The intervention targeting the PTA recommendation consisted of 14 behaviour change techniques and addressed 6 theoretical domains and 5 organisational domains. The mode of delivery was informed by six Cochrane reviews. It was delivered via five intervention components : (i) local stakeholder meetings, (ii) identification of local opinion leader teams, (iii) a train-the-trainer workshop for appointed local opinion leaders, (iv) local training workshops for delivery by trained local opinion leaders and (v) provision of tools and materials to prompt recommended behaviours.
Two theoretical frameworks were used in a complementary manner to inform intervention development in managing mild traumatic brain injury in the ED. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the developed intervention is being evaluated in a cluster randomised trial, part of the Neurotrauma Evidence Translation (NET) program.
PMCID: PMC4446082  PMID: 26003785
Intervention design; Intervention development; Theory use; Theoretical domains framework; Diffusion of innovations in service organisations
7.  Junior doctors' perceptions of their self-efficacy in prescribing, their prescribing errors and the possible causes of errors 
The aim of the study was to explore and compare junior doctors' perceptions of their self-efficacy in prescribing, their prescribing errors and the possible causes of those errors.
A cross-sectional questionnaire study was distributed to foundation doctors throughout Scotland, based on Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory and Human Error Theory (HET).
Five hundred and forty-eight questionnaires were completed (35.0% of the national cohort). F1s estimated a higher daytime error rate [median 6.7 (IQR 2–12.4)] than F2s [4.0 IQR (0–10) (P = 0.002)], calculated based on the total number of medicines prescribed. The majority of self-reported errors (250, 49.2%) resulted from unintentional actions. Interruptions and pressure from other staff were commonly cited causes of errors. F1s were more likely to report insufficient prescribing skills as a potential cause of error than F2s (P = 0.002). The prescribers did not believe that the outcomes of their errors were serious. F2s reported higher self-efficacy scores than F1s in most aspects of prescribing (P < 0.001).
Foundation doctors were aware of their prescribing errors, yet were confident in their prescribing skills and apparently complacent about the potential consequences of prescribing errors. Error causation is multi-factorial often due to environmental factors, but with lack of knowledge also contributing. Therefore interventions are needed at all levels, including environmental changes, improving knowledge, providing feedback and changing attitudes towards the role of prescribing as a major influence on patient outcome.
PMCID: PMC3845322  PMID: 23627415
junior doctors; human error theory; patient safety; prescribing errors; self-efficacy
8.  Perceived difficulty and appropriateness of decision making by General Practitioners: a systematic review of scenario studies 
Health-care quality in primary care depends largely on the appropriateness of General Practitioners’ (GPs; Primary Care or Family Physicians) decisions, which may be influenced by how difficult they perceive decisions to be. Patient scenarios (clinical or case vignettes) are widely used to investigate GPs’ decision making. This review aimed to identify the extent to which perceived decision difficulty, decision appropriateness, and their relationship have been assessed in scenario studies of GPs’ decision making; identify possible determinants of difficulty and appropriateness; and investigate the relationship between difficulty and appropriateness.
MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, the Cochrane Library and Web of Science were searched for scenario studies of GPs’ decision making. One author completed article screening. Ten percent of titles and abstracts were checked by an independent volunteer, resulting in 91% agreement. Data on decision difficulty and appropriateness were extracted by one author and descriptively synthesised. Chi-squared tests were used to explore associations between decision appropriateness, decision type and decision appropriateness assessment method.
Of 152 included studies, 66 assessed decision appropriateness and five assessed perceived difficulty. While no studies assessed the relationship between perceived difficulty and appropriateness, one study objectively varied the difficulty of the scenarios and assessed the relationship between a measure of objective difficulty and appropriateness. Across 38 studies where calculations were possible, 62% of the decisions were appropriate as defined by the appropriateness standard used. Chi-squared tests identified statistically significant associations between decision appropriateness, decision type and decision appropriateness assessment method. Findings suggested a negative relationship between decision difficulty and appropriateness, while interventions may have the potential to reduce perceived difficulty.
Scenario-based research into GPs’ decisions rarely considers the relationship between perceived decision difficulty and decision appropriateness. The links between these decisional components require further investigation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-014-0621-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4258016  PMID: 25471752
Systematic review; Clinical decision making; Decision difficulty; Decision appropriateness; General Practitioner; Primary care physician; Patient scenario; Vignette
9.  Looking inside the black box: results of a theory-based process evaluation exploring the results of a randomized controlled trial of printed educational messages to increase primary care physicians’ diabetic retinopathy referrals [Trial registration number ISRCTN72772651] 
Theory-based process evaluations conducted alongside randomized controlled trials provide the opportunity to investigate hypothesized mechanisms of action of interventions, helping to build a cumulative knowledge base and to inform the interpretation of individual trial outcomes. Our objective was to identify the underlying causal mechanisms in a cluster randomized trial of the effectiveness of printed educational materials (PEMs) to increase referral for diabetic retinopathy screening. We hypothesized that the PEMs would increase physicians’ intention to refer patients for retinal screening by strengthening their attitude and subjective norm, but not their perceived behavioral control.
Design: A theory based process evaluation alongside the Ontario Printed Educational Material (OPEM) cluster randomized trial. Postal surveys based on the Theory of Planned Behavior were sent to a random sample of trial participants two months before and six months after they received the intervention. Setting: Family physicians in Ontario, Canada. Participants: 1,512 family physicians (252 per intervention group) from the OPEM trial were invited to participate, and 31.3% (473/1512) responded at time one and time two. The final sample comprised 437 family physicians fully completing questionnaires at both time points. Main outcome measures: Primary: behavioral intention related to referring patient for retinopathy screening; secondary: attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control.
At baseline, family physicians reported positive intention, attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control to advise patients about retinopathy screening suggesting limited opportunities for improvement in these constructs. There were no significant differences on intention, attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control following the intervention. Respondents also reported additional physician- and patient-related factors perceived to influence whether patients received retinopathy screening.
Lack of change in the primary and secondary theory-based outcomes provides an explanation for the lack of observed effect of the main OPEM trial. High baseline levels of intention to advise patients to attend retinopathy screening suggest that post-intentional and other factors may explain gaps in care. Process evaluations based on behavioral theory can provide replicable and generalizable insights to aid interpretation of randomized controlled trials of complex interventions to change health professional behavior.
Trial registration
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1748-5908-9-86) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4261878  PMID: 25098442
Process evaluation; Theory of planned behavior; Printed educational material; Healthcare professional behavior; Behavior change
10.  Application of theory to enhance audit and feedback interventions to increase the uptake of evidence-based transfusion practice: an intervention development protocol 
Audits of blood transfusion demonstrate around 20% transfusions are outside national recommendations and guidelines. Audit and feedback is a widely used quality improvement intervention but effects on clinical practice are variable, suggesting potential for enhancement. Behavioural theory, theoretical frameworks of behaviour change and behaviour change techniques provide systematic processes to enhance intervention. This study is part of a larger programme of work to promote the uptake of evidence-based transfusion practice.
The objectives of this study are to design two theoretically enhanced audit and feedback interventions; one focused on content and one on delivery, and investigate the feasibility and acceptability.
Study A (Content): A coding framework based on current evidence regarding audit and feedback, and behaviour change theory and frameworks will be developed and applied as part of a structured content analysis to specify the key components of existing feedback documents. Prototype feedback documents with enhanced content and also a protocol, describing principles for enhancing feedback content, will be developed. Study B (Delivery): Individual semi-structured interviews with healthcare professionals and observations of team meetings in four hospitals will be used to specify, and identify views about, current audit and feedback practice. Interviews will be based on a topic guide developed using the Theoretical Domains Framework and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. Analysis of transcripts based on these frameworks will form the evidence base for developing a protocol describing an enhanced intervention that focuses on feedback delivery. Study C (Feasibility and Acceptability): Enhanced interventions will be piloted in four hospitals. Semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and observations will be used to assess feasibility and acceptability.
This intervention development work reflects the UK Medical Research Council’s guidance on development of complex interventions, which emphasises the importance of a robust theoretical basis for intervention design and recommends systematic assessment of feasibility and acceptability prior to taking interventions to evaluation in a full-scale randomised study. The work-up includes specification of current practice so that, in the trials to be conducted later in this programme, there will be a clear distinction between the control (usual practice) conditions and the interventions to be evaluated.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0092-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4243714  PMID: 25070404
Audit and feedback; Blood transfusion; Implementation; Health services research; Study protocol; Health professional behaviour change
11.  Implementing evidence-based recommended practices for the management of patients with mild traumatic brain injuries in Australian emergency care departments: study protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15:281.
Mild head injuries commonly present to emergency departments. The challenges facing clinicians in emergency departments include identifying which patients have traumatic brain injury, and which patients can safely be sent home. Traumatic brain injuries may exist with subtle symptoms or signs, but can still lead to adverse outcomes. Despite the existence of several high quality clinical practice guidelines, internationally and in Australia, research shows inconsistent implementation of these recommendations. The aim of this trial is to test the effectiveness of a targeted, theory- and evidence-informed implementation intervention to increase the uptake of three key clinical recommendations regarding the emergency department management of adult patients (18 years of age or older) who present following mild head injuries (concussion), compared with passive dissemination of these recommendations. The primary objective is to establish whether the intervention is effective in increasing the percentage of patients for which appropriate post-traumatic amnesia screening is performed.
The design of this study is a cluster randomised trial. We aim to include 34 Australian 24-hour emergency departments, which will be randomised to an intervention or control group. Control group departments will receive a copy of the most recent Australian evidence-based clinical practice guideline on the acute management of patients with mild head injuries. The intervention group will receive an implementation intervention based on an analysis of influencing factors, which include local stakeholder meetings, identification of nursing and medical opinion leaders in each site, a train-the-trainer day and standardised education and interactive workshops delivered by the opinion leaders during a 3 month period of time. Clinical practice outcomes will be collected retrospectively from medical records by independent chart auditors over the 2 month period following intervention delivery (patient level outcomes). In consenting hospitals, eligible patients will be recruited for a follow-up telephone interview conducted by trained researchers. A cost-effectiveness analysis and process evaluation using mixed-methods will be conducted. Sample size calculations are based on including 30 patients on average per department. Outcome assessors will be blinded to group allocation.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612001286831 (date registered 12 December 2012).
PMCID: PMC4107995  PMID: 25012235
Mild traumatic brain injury; Cluster trial; Emergency department
12.  Improving Diabetes care through Examining, Advising, and prescribing (IDEA): protocol for a theory-based cluster randomised controlled trial of a multiple behaviour change intervention aimed at primary healthcare professionals 
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.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC4049486  PMID: 24886606
13.  Valuing patients' experiences of healthcare processes: Towards broader applications of existing methods☆ 
Social Science & Medicine (1982)  2014;106(100):194-203.
Healthcare policy leaders internationally recognise that people's experiences of healthcare delivery are important, and invest significant resources to monitor and improve them. However, the value of particular aspects of experiences of healthcare delivery – relative to each other and to other healthcare outcomes – is unclear.
This paper considers how economic techniques have been and might be used to generate quantitative estimates of the value of particular experiences of healthcare delivery.
A recently published conceptual map of patients' experiences served to guide the scope and focus of the enquiry. The map represented both what health services and staff are like and do and what individual patients can feel like, be and do (while they are using services and subsequently).
We conducted a systematic search for applications of economic techniques to healthcare delivery. We found that these techniques have been quite widely used to estimate the value of features of healthcare systems and processes (e.g. of care delivery by a nurse rather than a doctor, or of a consultation of 10 minutes rather than 15 minutes), but much less to estimate the value of the implications of these features for patients personally.
To inform future research relating to the valuation of experiences of healthcare delivery, we organised a workshop for key stakeholders. Participants undertook and discussed ‘exercises’ that explored the use of different economic techniques to value descriptions of healthcare delivery that linked processes to what patients felt like and were able to be and do. The workshop identified a number of methodological issues that need careful attention, and highlighted some important concerns about the ways in which quantitative estimates of the value of experiences of healthcare delivery might be used. However the workshop confirmed enthusiasm for efforts to attend directly to the implications of healthcare delivery from patients' perspectives, including in terms of their capabilities.
•Significant efforts have been made to measure experiences of healthcare delivery.•Efforts to value experiences have focused on healthcare systems and processes.•The value of their implications for patients personally has been neglected.•Economic valuation techniques are promising but face challenges in this domain.
PMCID: PMC3988932  PMID: 24568844
Quality of healthcare; Patient acceptance of healthcare; Economic evaluation; Process utility; Capabilities approach
14.  Understanding diagnosis and management of dementia and guideline implementation in general practice: a qualitative study using the theoretical domains framework 
Dementia is a growing problem, causing substantial burden for patients, their families, and society. General practitioners (GPs) play an important role in diagnosing and managing dementia; however, there are gaps between recommended and current practice. The aim of this study was to explore GPs’ reported practice in diagnosing and managing dementia and to describe, in theoretical terms, the proposed explanations for practice that was and was not consistent with evidence-based guidelines.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs in Victoria, Australia. The Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) guided data collection and analysis. Interviews explored the factors hindering and enabling achievement of 13 recommended behaviours. Data were analysed using content and thematic analysis. This paper presents an in-depth description of the factors influencing two behaviours, assessing co-morbid depression using a validated tool, and conducting a formal cognitive assessment using a validated scale.
A total of 30 GPs were interviewed. Most GPs reported that they did not assess for co-morbid depression using a validated tool as per recommended guidance. Barriers included the belief that depression can be adequately assessed using general clinical indicators and that validated tools provide little additional information (theoretical domain of ‘Beliefs about consequences’); discomfort in using validated tools (‘Emotion’), possibly due to limited training and confidence (‘Skills’; ‘Beliefs about capabilities’); limited awareness of the need for, and forgetting to conduct, a depression assessment (‘Knowledge’; ‘Memory, attention and decision processes’). Most reported practising in a manner consistent with the recommendation that a formal cognitive assessment using a validated scale be undertaken. Key factors enabling this were having an awareness of the need to conduct a cognitive assessment (‘Knowledge’); possessing the necessary skills and confidence (‘Skills’; ‘Beliefs about capabilities’); and having adequate time and resources (‘Environmental context and resources’).
This is the first study to our knowledge to use a theoretical approach to investigate the barriers and enablers to guideline-recommended diagnosis and management of dementia in general practice. It has identified key factors likely to explain GPs’ uptake of the guidelines. The results have informed the design of an intervention aimed at supporting practice change in line with dementia guidelines, which is currently being evaluated in a cluster randomised trial.
PMCID: PMC4015883  PMID: 24581339
Dementia; General practitioners (GPs); Cognitive assessment; Depression assessment; Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF); Guideline implementation
15.  Linked health data for pharmacovigilance in children: perceived legal and ethical issues for stakeholders and data guardians 
BMJ Open  2014;4(2):e003875.
The inclusion of the Community Health Index in the recording of National Health Service (NHS) contacts in Scotland facilitates national linkage of data such as prescribing and healthcare utilisation. This linkage could be the basis for identification of adverse drug reactions. The aim of this article is to report the views of healthcare professionals on data sharing, ownership and the legal and other applicable frameworks relevant to linkage of routinely collected paediatric healthcare data.
Qualitative study using semistructured face-to-face interviews addressing the study aims.
Purposive sample of professional stakeholders (n=25) including experts on ethics, data protection, pharmacovigilance, data linkage, legal issues and prescribing. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed using a framework approach.
Participants identified existing data sharing systems in the UK. Access to healthcare data should be approved by the data owners. The definition of data ownership and associated legal responsibilities for linked healthcare data were seen as important factors to ensure accountability for the use of linked data. Yet data owners were seen as facilitators of the proposed data linkage. Twelve frameworks (legal, regulatory and governance) applicable to the linkage of healthcare data were identified.
A large number of potentially relevant legal and regulatory frameworks were identified. Ownership of the linked data was seen as an extension of responsibility for, or guardianship of, the source datasets. The consensus emerging from the present study was that clarity is required on the definition of data sharing, data ownership and responsibilities of data owners.
PMCID: PMC3927931  PMID: 24523422
Pharmacovigilance; Prescribing; Data Sharing; Data Ownership; Data Linkage
16.  No more ‘business as usual’ with audit and feedback interventions: towards an agenda for a reinvigorated intervention 
Audit and feedback interventions in healthcare have been found to be effective, but there has been little progress with respect to understanding their mechanisms of action or identifying their key ‘active ingredients.’
Given the increasing use of audit and feedback to improve quality of care, it is imperative to focus further research on understanding how and when it works best. In this paper, we argue that continuing the ‘business as usual’ approach to evaluating two-arm trials of audit and feedback interventions against usual care for common problems and settings is unlikely to contribute new generalizable findings. Future audit and feedback trials should incorporate evidence- and theory-based best practices, and address known gaps in the literature.
We offer an agenda for high-priority research topics for implementation researchers that focuses on reviewing best practices for designing audit and feedback interventions to optimize effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC3896824  PMID: 24438584
Audit and feedback; Synthesis; Best practice; Implementation; Optimization
17.  Understanding practice: the factors that influence management of mild traumatic brain injury in the emergency department-a qualitative study using the Theoretical Domains Framework 
Mild traumatic brain injury is a frequent cause of presentation to emergency departments. Despite the availability of clinical practice guidelines in this area, there is variation in practice. One of the aims of the Neurotrauma Evidence Translation program is to develop and evaluate a targeted, theory- and evidence-informed intervention to improve the management of mild traumatic brain injury in Australian emergency departments. This study is the first step in the intervention development process and uses the Theoretical Domains Framework to explore the factors perceived to influence the uptake of four key evidence-based recommended practices for managing mild traumatic brain injury.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with emergency staff in the Australian state of Victoria. The interview guide was developed using the Theoretical Domains Framework to explore current practice and to identify the factors perceived to influence practice. Two researchers coded the interview transcripts using thematic content analysis.
A total of 42 participants (9 Directors, 20 doctors and 13 nurses) were interviewed over a seven-month period. The results suggested that (i) the prospective assessment of post-traumatic amnesia was influenced by: knowledge; beliefs about consequences; environmental context and resources; skills; social/professional role and identity; and beliefs about capabilities; (ii) the use of guideline-developed criteria or decision rules to inform the appropriate use of a CT scan was influenced by: knowledge; beliefs about consequences; environmental context and resources; memory, attention and decision processes; beliefs about capabilities; social influences; skills and behavioral regulation; (iii) providing verbal and written patient information on discharge was influenced by: beliefs about consequences; environmental context and resources; memory, attention and decision processes; social/professional role and identity; and knowledge; (iv) the practice of providing brief, routine follow-up on discharge was influenced by: environmental context and resources; social/professional role and identity; knowledge; beliefs about consequences; and motivation and goals.
Using the Theoretical Domains Framework, factors thought to influence the management of mild traumatic brain injury in the emergency department were identified. These factors present theoretically based targets for a future intervention.
PMCID: PMC3895840  PMID: 24418161
Emergency department management; Mild traumatic brain injury; Theoretical Domains Framework; Semi-structured interviews
18.  Prevalence and Causes of Prescribing Errors: The PRescribing Outcomes for Trainee Doctors Engaged in Clinical Training (PROTECT) Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e79802.
Study objectives were to investigate the prevalence and causes of prescribing errors amongst foundation doctors (i.e. junior doctors in their first (F1) or second (F2) year of post-graduate training), describe their knowledge and experience of prescribing errors, and explore their self-efficacy (i.e. confidence) in prescribing.
A three-part mixed-methods design was used, comprising: prospective observational study; semi-structured interviews and cross-sectional survey. All doctors prescribing in eight purposively selected hospitals in Scotland participated. All foundation doctors throughout Scotland participated in the survey. The number of prescribing errors per patient, doctor, ward and hospital, perceived causes of errors and a measure of doctors' self-efficacy were established.
4710 patient charts and 44,726 prescribed medicines were reviewed. There were 3364 errors, affecting 1700 (36.1%) charts (overall error rate: 7.5%; F1:7.4%; F2:8.6%; consultants:6.3%). Higher error rates were associated with : teaching hospitals (p<0.001), surgical (p = <0.001) or mixed wards (0.008) rather thanmedical ward, higher patient turnover wards (p<0.001), a greater number of prescribed medicines (p<0.001) and the months December and June (p<0.001). One hundred errors were discussed in 40 interviews. Error causation was multi-factorial; work environment and team factors were particularly noted. Of 548 completed questionnaires (national response rate of 35.4%), 508 (92.7% of respondents) reported errors, most of which (328 (64.6%) did not reach the patient. Pressure from other staff, workload and interruptions were cited as the main causes of errors. Foundation year 2 doctors reported greater confidence than year 1 doctors in deciding the most appropriate medication regimen.
Prescribing errors are frequent and of complex causation. Foundation doctors made more errors than other doctors, but undertook the majority of prescribing, making them a key target for intervention. Contributing causes included work environment, team, task, individual and patient factors. Further work is needed to develop and assess interventions that address these.
PMCID: PMC3880263  PMID: 24404122
19.  Feedback GAP: pragmatic, cluster-randomized trial of goal setting and action plans to increase the effectiveness of audit and feedback interventions in primary care 
Audit and feedback to physicians is a commonly used quality improvement strategy, but its optimal design is unknown. This trial tested the effects of a theory-informed worksheet to facilitate goal setting and action planning, appended to feedback reports on chronic disease management, compared to feedback reports provided without these worksheets.
A two-arm pragmatic cluster randomized trial was conducted, with allocation at the level of primary care clinics. Participants were family physicians who contributed data from their electronic medical records. The ‘usual feedback’ arm received feedback every six months for two years regarding the proportion of their patients meeting quality targets for diabetes and/or ischemic heart disease. The intervention arm received these same reports plus a worksheet designed to facilitate goal setting and action plan development in response to the feedback reports. Blood pressure (BP) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) values were compared after two years as the primary outcomes. Process outcomes measured the proportion of guideline-recommended actions (e.g., testing and prescribing) conducted within the appropriate timeframe. Intention-to-treat analysis was performed.
Outcomes were similar across groups at baseline. Final analysis included 20 physicians from seven clinics and 1,832 patients in the intervention arm (15% loss to follow up) and 29 physicians from seven clinics and 2,223 patients in the usual feedback arm (10% loss to follow up). Ten of 20 physicians completed the worksheet at least once during the study. Mean BP was 128/72 in the feedback plus worksheet arm and 128/73 in the feedback alone arm, while LDL was 2.1 and 2.0, respectively. Thus, no significant differences were observed across groups in the primary outcomes, but mean haemoglobin A1c was lower in the feedback plus worksheet arm (7.2% versus 7.4%, p<0.001). Improvements in both arms were noted over time for one-half of the process outcomes.
Appending a theory-informed goal setting and action planning worksheet to an externally produced audit and feedback intervention did not lead to improvements in patient outcomes. The results may be explained in part by passive dissemination of the worksheet leading to inadequate engagement with the intervention.
Trial registration NCT00996645
PMCID: PMC3878579  PMID: 24341511
20.  Clinical stakeholders’ opinions on the use of selective decontamination of the digestive tract in critically ill patients in intensive care units: an international Delphi study 
Critical Care  2013;17(6):R266.
Selective decontamination of the digestive tract (SDD) is a prophylactic antibiotic regimen that is not widely used in practice. We aimed to describe the opinions of key ‘stakeholders’ about the validity of the existing evidence base, likely consequences of implementation, relative importance of their opinions in influencing overall practice, likely barriers to implementation and perceptions of the requirement for further research to inform the decision about whether to embark on a further large randomised controlled trial.
This was a Delphi study informed by comprehensive framework of possible determinants of health professionals’ behaviour to study Critical Care practice in four countries. There were four key stakeholder participant groups including ICU physicians, pharmacists, clinical leads, and clinical microbiologists/ infectious disease physicians. Round one comprised participant interviews and Rounds two and three were online questionnaires using Delphi method.
In this study, 141 participants were recruited of whom 82% were retained. Participants rated themselves as knowledgeable about SDD. Antibiotic resistance was identified as the most important issue. SDD was seen as a low clinical priority but few participants reported strong opposition. There was moderate agreement that research to date has not adequately addressed concerns about antibiotic resistance and lacks generalizability. Participants indicated equipoise with regard to benefits and harms of SDD, and indicated strong support for a further randomised trial.
Clinicians have clinical equipoise about the effectiveness of SDD. Future research requires longer follow up to assess antibiotic resistance as well as greater validity/generalizability to provide definitive answers on the effectiveness of decontamination and effects on antibiotic resistance. SDD was regarded as not being a high clinical priority, which may limit future trial participation. These results have identified that further large randomised controlled trial of SDD in critical care is both warranted and appropriate.
PMCID: PMC4056354  PMID: 24207137
21.  Evidence-based care of older people with suspected cognitive impairment in general practice: protocol for the IRIS cluster randomised trial 
Dementia is a common and complex condition. Evidence-based guidelines for the management of people with dementia in general practice exist; however, detection, diagnosis and disclosure of dementia have been identified as potential evidence-practice gaps. Interventions to implement guidelines into practice have had varying success. The use of theory in designing implementation interventions has been limited, but is advocated because of its potential to yield more effective interventions and aid understanding of factors modifying the magnitude of intervention effects across trials. This protocol describes methods of a randomised trial that tests a theory-informed implementation intervention that, if effective, may provide benefits for patients with dementia and their carers.
This trial aims to estimate the effectiveness of a theory-informed intervention to increase GPs’ (in Victoria, Australia) adherence to a clinical guideline for the detection, diagnosis, and management of dementia in general practice, compared with providing GPs with a printed copy of the guideline. Primary objectives include testing if the intervention is effective in increasing the percentage of patients with suspected cognitive impairment who receive care consistent with two key guideline recommendations: receipt of a i) formal cognitive assessment, and ii) depression assessment using a validated scale (primary outcomes for the trial).
The design is a parallel cluster randomised trial, with clusters being general practices. We aim to recruit 60 practices per group. Practices will be randomised to the intervention and control groups using restricted randomisation. Patients meeting the inclusion criteria, and GPs’ detection and diagnosis behaviours directed toward these patients, will be identified and measured via an electronic search of the medical records nine months after the start of the intervention. Practitioners in the control group will receive a printed copy of the guideline. In addition to receipt of the printed guideline, practitioners in the intervention group will be invited to participate in an interactive, opinion leader-led, educational face-to-face workshop. The theory-informed intervention aims to address identified barriers to and enablers of implementation of recommendations. Researchers responsible for identifying the cohort of patients with suspected cognitive impairment, and their detection and diagnosis outcomes, will be blind to group allocation.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611001032943 (date registered 28 September, 2011).
PMCID: PMC3765181  PMID: 23958469
22.  Evaluation of a Theory-Informed Implementation Intervention for the Management of Acute Low Back Pain in General Medical Practice: The IMPLEMENT Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65471.
This cluster randomised trial evaluated an intervention to decrease x-ray referrals and increase giving advice to stay active for people with acute low back pain (LBP) in general practice.
General practices were randomised to either access to a guideline for acute LBP (control) or facilitated interactive workshops (intervention). We measured behavioural predictors (e.g. knowledge, attitudes and intentions) and fear avoidance beliefs. We were unable to recruit sufficient patients to measure our original primary outcomes so we introduced other outcomes measured at the general practitioner (GP) level: behavioural simulation (clinical decision about vignettes) and rates of x-ray and CT-scan (medical administrative data). All those not involved in the delivery of the intervention were blinded to allocation.
47 practices (53 GPs) were randomised to the control and 45 practices (59 GPs) to the intervention. The number of GPs available for analysis at 12 months varied by outcome due to missing confounder information; a minimum of 38 GPs were available from the intervention group, and a minimum of 40 GPs from the control group. For the behavioural constructs, although effect estimates were small, the intervention group GPs had greater intention of practising consistent with the guideline for the clinical behaviour of x-ray referral. For behavioural simulation, intervention group GPs were more likely to adhere to guideline recommendations about x-ray (OR 1.76, 95%CI 1.01, 3.05) and more likely to give advice to stay active (OR 4.49, 95%CI 1.90 to 10.60). Imaging referral was not statistically significantly different between groups and the potential importance of effects was unclear; rate ratio 0.87 (95%CI 0.68, 1.10) for x-ray or CT-scan.
The intervention led to small changes in GP intention to practice in a manner that is consistent with an evidence-based guideline, but it did not result in statistically significant changes in actual behaviour.
Trial Registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000098538
PMCID: PMC3681882  PMID: 23785427
23.  Active ingredients are reported more often for pharmacologic than non-pharmacologic interventions: an illustrative review of reporting practices in titles and abstracts 
Trials  2013;14:146.
Key components of healthcare interventions include ‘active ingredients’ (intervention components that can be specifically linked to effects on outcomes such that, were they omitted, the intervention would be ineffective). These should be reported in titles and abstracts of published reports of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). However, reporting of non-pharmacologic interventions (NPIs), particularly behaviour change interventions (BCIs), is difficult, owing to their complexity. This illustrative review compares how pharmacologic interventions (PIs), NPIs and BCIs are specified in titles and abstracts to clarify how reporting of NPIs and BCIs can be improved. MEDLINE and Embase were searched for RCTs published in the British Medical Journal, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and Annals of Behavioral Medicine from 2009 to March 2011. All types of intervention, participant and outcome were included. A random sample of 198 studies (sampled proportionally from included journals) stratified by intervention type (PI/NPI) was taken: 98 evaluated PIs, 96 evaluated NPIs and four evaluated both. Studies were coded for the presence or absence of key components. The frequency data were analyzed using the chi-square test. Active ingredients were named in 88% titles and 95% abstracts of PI reports, and in 51% titles and 71% abstracts of NPI reports, with a significant association between intervention type and reporting of active ingredients in titles (χ2(1) = 28.90; P < 0.001) and abstracts (χ2(1) = 16.94; P < 0.001). Active ingredients were named in BCI reports in 37% titles and 56% abstracts, and in other NPI reports in 66% titles and 86% abstracts. There was also a significant association between intervention type and reporting of active ingredients in titles (χ2(1) = 6.68; P = 0.010) and abstracts (χ2(1) = 8.66; P = 0.003). Reporting practices also differed for such components as the trial setting and intervention provider. This review highlights the need for improved reporting of NPIs (particularly BCIs) and indicates that a set of agreed labels and definitions for complex NPIs could facilitate standardized reporting. This would ensure that interventions can be faithfully replicated and that evidence for interventions can be appropriately synthesized.
PMCID: PMC3663666  PMID: 23688143
Active ingredients; Behaviour change interventions; Complex interventions; Illustrative review; Non-pharmacologic interventions; Pharmacologic interventions; Reporting standards
24.  Specifying content and mechanisms of change in interventions to change professionals’ practice: an illustration from the Good Goals study in occupational therapy 
It is widely agreed that interventions to change professionals’ practice need to be clearly specified. This involves (1) selecting and defining the intervention techniques, (2) operationalising the techniques and deciding their delivery, and (3) formulating hypotheses about the mechanisms through which the techniques are thought to result in change. Descriptions of methods to achieve these objectives are limited. This paper reports methods and illustrates outputs from a study to meet these objectives, specifically from the Good Goals study to improve occupational therapists’ caseload management practice.
(1) Behaviour change techniques were identified and selected from an existing matrix that maps techniques to determinants. An existing coding manual was used to define the techniques. (2) A team of occupational therapists generated context-relevant, acceptable modes of delivery for the techniques; these data were compared and contrasted with previously collected data, literature on caseload management, and the aims of the intervention. (3) Hypotheses about the mechanisms of change were formulated by drawing on the matrix and on theories of behaviour change.
(1) Eight behaviour change techniques were selected: goal specified; self-monitoring; contract; graded tasks; increasing skills (problem solving, decision making, goal setting); coping skills; rehearsal of relevant skills; social processes of encouragement, support, and pressure; demonstration by others; and feedback. (2) A range of modes of delivery were generated (e.g., graded tasks’ consisting of series of clinical cases and situations that become increasingly difficult). Conditions for acceptable delivery were identified (e.g., ‘self-monitoring’ was acceptable only if delivered at team level). The modes of delivery were specified as face-to-face training, task sheets, group tasks, DVDs, and team-based weekly meetings. (3) The eight techniques were hypothesized to target caseload management practice through eleven mediating variables. Three domains were hypothesized to be most likely to change: beliefs about capabilities, motivation and goals, and behavioural regulation.
The project provides an exemplar of a systematic and reportable development of a quality-improvement intervention, with its methods likely to be applicable to other projects. A subsequent study of the intervention has provided early indication that use of systematic methods to specify interventions may help to maximize acceptability and effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC3502268  PMID: 23078918
Complex interventions; Developing interventions; Behaviour change; Professionals’ practice; Goal setting; Occupational therapy
25.  A cross-country comparison of intensive care physicians’ beliefs about their transfusion behaviour: A qualitative study using the theoretical domains framework 
Evidence of variations in red blood cell transfusion practices have been reported in a wide range of clinical settings. Parallel studies in Canada and the United Kingdom were designed to explore transfusion behaviour in intensive care physicians. The aim of this paper is three-fold: first, to explore beliefs that influence Canadian intensive care physicians’ transfusion behaviour; second, to systematically select relevant theories and models using the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to inform a future predictive study; and third, to compare its results with the UK study.
Ten intensive care unit (ICU) physicians throughout Canada were interviewed. Physicians’ responses were coded into theoretical domains, and specific beliefs were generated for each response. Theoretical domains relevant to behaviour change were identified, and specific constructs from the relevant domains were used to select psychological theories. The results from Canada and the United Kingdom were compared.
Seven theoretical domains populated by 31 specific beliefs were identified as relevant to the target behaviour. The domains Beliefs about capabilities (confident to not transfuse if patients’ clinical condition is stable), Beliefs about consequences (positive beliefs of reducing infection and saving resources and negative beliefs about risking patients’ clinical outcome and potentially more work), Social influences (transfusion decision is influenced by team members and patients’ relatives), and Behavioural regulation (wide range of approaches to encourage restrictive transfusion) that were identified in the UK study were also relevant in the Canadian context. Three additional domains, Knowledge (it requires more evidence to support restrictive transfusion), Social/professional role and identity (conflicting beliefs about not adhering to guidelines, referring to evidence, believing restrictive transfusion as professional standard, and believing that guideline is important for other professionals), and Motivation and goals (opposing beliefs about the importance of restrictive transfusion and compatibility with other goals), were also identified in this study. Similar to the UK study, the Theory of Planned Behaviour, Social Cognitive Theory, Operant Learning Theory, Action Planning, and Knowledge-Attitude-Behaviour model were identified as potentially relevant theories and models for further study. Personal project analysis was added to the Canadian study to explore the Motivation and goals domain in further detail.
A wide range of beliefs was identified by the Canadian ICU physicians as likely to influence their transfusion behaviour. We were able to demonstrate similar though not identical results in a cross-country comparison. Designing targeted behaviour-change interventions based on unique beliefs identified by physicians from two countries are more likely to encourage restrictive transfusion in ICU physicians in respective countries. This needs to be tested in future prospective clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3527303  PMID: 22999460

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