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1.  ‘Just another incentive scheme’: a qualitative interview study of a local pay-for-performance scheme for primary care 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15(1):168.
A range of policy initiatives have addressed inequalities in healthcare and health outcomes. Local pay-for-performance schemes for primary care have been advocated as means of enhancing clinical ownership of the quality agenda and better targeting local need compared with national schemes such as the UK Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). We investigated whether professionals’ experience of a local scheme in one English National Health Service (NHS) former primary care trust (PCT) differed from that of the national QOF in relation to the goal of reducing inequalities.
We conducted retrospective semi-structured interviews with primary care professionals implementing the scheme and those involved in its development. We purposively sampled practices with varying levels of population socio-economic deprivation and achievement. Interviews explored perceptions of the scheme and indicators, likely mechanisms of influence on practice, perceived benefits and harms, and how future schemes could be improved. We used a framework approach to analysis.
Thirty-eight professionals from 16 general practices and six professionals involved in developing local indicators participated. Our findings cover four themes: ownership, credibility of the indicators, influences on behaviour, and exacerbated tensions. We found little evidence that the scheme engendered any distinctive sense of ownership or experiences different from the national scheme. Although the indicators and their evidence base were seldom actively questioned, doubts were expressed about their focus on health promotion given that eventual benefits relied upon patient action and availability of local resources. Whilst practices serving more affluent populations reported status and patient benefit as motivators for participating in the scheme, those serving more deprived populations highlighted financial reward. The scheme exacerbated tensions between patient and professional consultation agendas, general practitioners benefitting directly from incentives and nurses who did much of the work, and practices serving more and less affluent populations which faced different challenges in achieving targets.
The contentious nature of pay-for-performance was not necessarily reduced by local adaptation. Those developing future schemes should consider differential rewards and supportive resources for practices serving more deprived populations, and employing a wider range of levers to promote professional understanding and ownership of indicators.
PMCID: PMC4213492  PMID: 25344735
Primary health care; Pay-for-performance; Financial incentives; Social deprivation
2.  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
3.  Patients understanding of depression associated with chronic physical illness: a qualitative study 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:37.
Detection of depression can be difficult in primary care, particularly when associated with chronic illness. Patient beliefs may affect detection and subsequent engagement with management. We explored patient beliefs about the nature of depression associated with physical illness.
A qualitative interview study of patients registered with general practices in Leeds, UK. We invited patients with coronary heart disease or diabetes from primary care to participate in semi-structured interviews exploring their beliefs and experiences. We analysed transcripts using a thematic approach, extended to consider narratives as important contextual elements.
We interviewed 26 patients, including 17 with personal experience of depression. We developed six themes: recognising a problem, complex causality, the role of the primary care, responsibility, resilience, and the role of their life story. Participants did not consistently talk about depression as an illness-like disorder. They described a change in their sense of self against the background of their life stories. Participants were unsure about seeking help from general practitioners (GPs) and felt a personal responsibility to overcome depression themselves. Chronic illness, as opposed to other life pressures, was seen as a justifiable cause of depression.
People with chronic illness do not necessarily regard depression as an easily defined illness, especially outside of the context of their life stories. Efforts to engage patients with chronic illness in the detection and management of depression may need further tailoring to accommodate beliefs about how people view themselves, responsibility and negative views of treatment.
PMCID: PMC3936902  PMID: 24555886
4.  Using behavioural theories to optimise shared haemodialysis care: a qualitative intervention development study of patient and professional experience 
Patients in control of their own haemodialysis report better outcomes than those receiving professional controlled care in a hospital setting, even though home and hospital haemodialysis are largely equivalent from mechanical and physiological perspectives. Shared Haemodialysis Care (SHC) describes an initiative in which hospital haemodialysis patients are supported by dialysis staff to become as involved as they wish in their own care; and can improve patient safety, satisfaction and may reduce costs. We do not understand why interventions to support self-management in other conditions have variable effects or how to optimise the delivery of SHC. The purpose of this study was to identify perceived patient and professional (nurses and healthcare assistants) barriers to the uptake of SHC, and to use these data to identify intervention components to optimise care.
Individual semi-structured interviews with patients and professionals were conducted to identify barriers and facilitators. Data were coded to behavioural theory to identify solutions. A national UK learning event with multiple stakeholders (patients, carers, commissioners and professionals) explored the salience of these barriers and the acceptability of solutions.
A complex intervention strategy was designed to optimise SHC for patients and professionals. Interviews were conducted with patients (n = 15) and professionals (n = 7) in two hospitals and three satellite units piloting SHC. Data from patient and professional interviews could be coded to behavioural theory. Analyses identified key barriers (knowledge, beliefs about capabilities, skills and environmental context and resources). An intervention strategy that focuses on providing, first, patients with information about the shared nature of care, how to read prescriptions and use machines, and second, providing professionals with skills and protected time to teach both professionals/patients, as well as providing continual review, may improve the implementation of SHC and be acceptable to stakeholders.
We have developed an intervention strategy to improve the implementation of SHC for patients and professionals. While this intervention strategy has been systematically developed using behavioural theory, it should be rigorously tested in a subsequent effectiveness evaluation study prior to implementation to ensure that shared haemodialysis care can be delivered equitably, efficiently and safely for all patients.
PMCID: PMC3851734  PMID: 24098920
Haemodialysis; Shared care; Behavioural theory; Barriers and facilitators
5.  Explaining clinical behaviors using multiple theoretical models 
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.
PMCID: PMC3500222  PMID: 23075284
6.  Do incentives, reminders or reduced burden improve healthcare professional response rates in postal questionnaires? two randomised controlled trials 
Healthcare professional response rates to postal questionnaires are declining and this may threaten the validity and generalisability of their findings. Methods to improve response rates do incur costs (resources) and increase the cost of research projects. The aim of these randomised controlled trials (RCTs) was to assess whether 1) incentives, 2) type of reminder and/or 3) reduced response burden improve response rates; and to assess the cost implications of such additional effective interventions.
Two RCTs were conducted. In RCT A general dental practitioners (dentists) in Scotland were randomised to receive either an incentive; an abridged questionnaire or a full length questionnaire. In RCT B non-responders to a postal questionnaire sent to general medical practitioners (GPs) in the UK were firstly randomised to receive a second full length questionnaire as a reminder or a postcard reminder. Continued non-responders from RCT B were then randomised within their first randomisation to receive a third full length or an abridged questionnaire reminder. The cost-effectiveness of interventions that effectively increased response rates was assessed as a secondary outcome.
There was no evidence that an incentive (52% versus 43%, Risk Difference (RD) -8.8 (95%CI −22.5, 4.8); or abridged questionnaire (46% versus 43%, RD −2.9 (95%CI −16.5, 10.7); statistically significantly improved dentist response rates compared to a full length questionnaire in RCT A. In RCT B there was no evidence that a full questionnaire reminder statistically significantly improved response rates compared to a postcard reminder (10.4% versus 7.3%, RD 3 (95%CI −0.1, 6.8). At a second reminder stage, GPs sent the abridged questionnaire responded more often (14.8% versus 7.2%, RD −7.7 (95%CI −12.8, -2.6). GPs who received a postcard reminder followed by an abridged questionnaire were most likely to respond (19.8% versus 6.3%, RD 8.1%, and 9.1% for full/postcard/full, three full or full/full/abridged questionnaire respectively). An abridged questionnaire containing fewer questions following a postcard reminder was the only cost-effective strategy for increasing the response rate (£15.99 per response).
When expecting or facing a low response rate to postal questionnaires, researchers should carefully identify the most efficient way to boost their response rate. In these studies, an abridged questionnaire containing fewer questions following a postcard reminder was the only cost-effective strategy. An increase in response rates may be explained by a combination of the number and type of contacts. Increasing the sampling frame may be more cost-effective than interventions to prompt non-responders. However, this may not strengthen the validity and generalisability of the survey findings and affect the representativeness of the sample.
PMCID: PMC3508866  PMID: 22891875
7.  How patients understand depression associated with chronic physical disease – a systematic review 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:41.
Clinicians are encouraged to screen people with chronic physical illness for depression. Screening alone may not improve outcomes, especially if the process is incompatible with patient beliefs. The aim of this research is to understand people’s beliefs about depression, particularly in the presence of chronic physical disease.
A mixed method systematic review involving a thematic analysis of qualitative studies and quantitative studies of beliefs held by people with current depressive symptoms.
MEDLINE, EMBASE, PSYCHINFO, CINAHL, BIOSIS, Web of Science, The Cochrane Library, UKCRN portfolio, National Research Register Archive, and OpenSIGLE were searched from database inception to 31st December 2010.
A narrative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative data, based initially upon illness representations and extended to include other themes not compatible with that framework.
A range of clinically relevant beliefs was identified from 65 studies including the difficulty in labeling depression, complex causal factors instead of the biological model, the roles of different treatments and negative views about the consequences of depression. We found other important themes less related to ideas about illness: the existence of a self-sustaining ‘depression spiral’; depression as an existential state; the ambiguous status of suicidal thinking; and the role of stigma and blame in depression.
Approaches to detection of depression in physical illness need to be receptive to the range of beliefs held by patients. Patient beliefs have implications for engagement with depression screening.
PMCID: PMC3439302  PMID: 22640234
Depression; Comprehension; Primary health care; Chronic disease; Review; Systematic
8.  Applying psychological theories to evidence-based clinical practice: identifying factors predictive of lumbar spine x-ray for low back pain in UK primary care practice 
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.
PMCID: PMC3125229  PMID: 21619689
9.  Applying psychological theories to evidence-based clinical practice: identifying factors predictive of placing preventive fissure sealants 
Psychological models are used to understand and predict behaviour in a wide range of settings, but have not been consistently applied to health professional behaviours, and the contribution of differing theories is not clear. This study explored the usefulness of a range of models to predict an evidence-based behaviour -- the placing of fissure sealants.
Measures were collected by postal questionnaire from a random sample of general dental practitioners (GDPs) in Scotland. Outcomes were behavioural simulation (scenario decision-making), and behavioural intention. Predictor variables were from the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), Common Sense Self-regulation Model (CS-SRM), Operant Learning Theory (OLT), Implementation Intention (II), Stage Model, and knowledge (a non-theoretical construct). Multiple regression analysis was used to examine the predictive value of each theoretical model individually. Significant constructs from all theories were then entered into a 'cross theory' stepwise regression analysis to investigate their combined predictive value
Behavioural simulation - theory level variance explained was: TPB 31%; SCT 29%; II 7%; OLT 30%. Neither CS-SRM nor stage explained significant variance. In the cross theory analysis, habit (OLT), timeline acute (CS-SRM), and outcome expectancy (SCT) entered the equation, together explaining 38% of the variance. Behavioural intention - theory level variance explained was: TPB 30%; SCT 24%; OLT 58%, CS-SRM 27%. GDPs in the action stage had significantly higher intention to place fissure sealants. In the cross theory analysis, habit (OLT) and attitude (TPB) entered the equation, together explaining 68% of the variance in intention.
The study provides evidence that psychological models can be useful in understanding and predicting clinical behaviour. Taking a theory-based approach enables the creation of a replicable methodology for identifying factors that may predict clinical behaviour and so provide possible targets for knowledge translation interventions. Results suggest that more evidence-based behaviour may be achieved by influencing beliefs about the positive outcomes of placing fissure sealants and building a habit of placing them as part of patient management. However a number of conceptual and methodological challenges remain.
PMCID: PMC2864198  PMID: 20377849

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