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.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612001286831 (date registered 12 December 2012).
Mild traumatic brain injury; Cluster trial; Emergency department
The development and publication of clinical practice guidelines for acute low-back pain has resulted in evidence-based recommendations that have the potential to improve the quality and safety of care for acute low-back pain. Development and dissemination of guidelines may not, however, be sufficient to produce improvements in clinical practice; further investment in active implementation of guideline recommendations may be required. Further research is required to quantify the trade-off between the additional upfront cost of active implementation of guideline recommendations for low-back pain and any resulting improvements in clinical practice.
Cost-effectiveness analysis alongside the IMPLEMENT trial from a health sector perspective to compare active implementation of guideline recommendations via the IMPLEMENT intervention (plus standard dissemination) against standard dissemination alone.
The base-case analysis suggests that delivery of the IMPLEMENT intervention dominates standard dissemination (less costly and more effective), yielding savings of $135 per x-ray referral avoided (-$462.93/3.43). However, confidence intervals around point estimates for the primary outcome suggest that – irrespective of willingness to pay (WTP) – we cannot be at least 95% confident that the IMPLEMENT intervention differs in value from standard dissemination.
Our findings demonstrate that moving beyond development and dissemination to active implementation entails a significant additional upfront investment that may not be offset by health gains and/or reductions in health service utilization of sufficient magnitude to render active implementation cost-effective.
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.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611001032943 (date registered 28 September, 2011).
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.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000098538
Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) can be significantly impaired by the presence of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). The aim of this paper was to (1) identify differences in HRQOL between individuals with CVD, MDD, or both, compared to a healthy reference group, (2) establish whether the influence of co-morbid MDD and CVD on HRQOL is additive or synergistic and (3) determine the way in which depression severity interacts with CVD to influence overall HRQOL.
Population-based data from the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being (NSMHWB) (n = 8841) were used to compare HRQOL of individuals with MDD and CVD, MDD but not CVD, CVD but not MDD, with a healthy reference group. HRQOL was measured using the Assessment of Quality of Life (AQOL). MDD was identified using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI 3.0).
Of all four groups, individuals with co-morbid CVD and depression reported the greatest deficits in AQOL utility scores (Coef: −0.32, 95% CI: −0.40, −0.23), after adjusting for covariates. Those with MDD only (Coef: −0.27, 95% CI: −0.30, −0.24) and CVD only (Coef: −0.08, 95% CI: −0.11, −0.05) also reported reduced AQOL utility scores. Second, the influence of MDD and CVD on HRQOL was shown to be additive, rather than synergistic. Third, a significant dose–response relationship was observed between depression severity and HRQOL. However, CVD and depression severity appeared to act independently of each other in impacting HRQOL.
HRQOL is greatly impaired in individuals with co-morbid MDD and CVD; these conditions appear to influence HRQOL in an additive fashion. HRQOL alters with depression severity, therefore treating depression and improving HRQOL is of clinical importance.
Health-related quality of life; Depression; Cardiovascular disease; Dose–response; Synergistic
Variability between clinical practice guideline recommendations and actual clinical practice exists in many areas of health care. A 2004 systematic review examining the effectiveness of guideline implementation interventions concluded there was a lack of evidence to support decisions about effective interventions to promote the uptake of guidelines. Further, the review recommended the use of theory in the development of implementation interventions. A clinical practice guideline for the management of acute low-back pain has been developed in Australia (2003). Acute low-back pain is a common condition, has a high burden, and there is some indication of an evidence-practice gap in the allied health setting. This provides an opportunity to develop and test a theory-based implementation intervention which, if effective, may provide benefits for patients with this condition.
This study aims to estimate the effectiveness of a theory-based intervention to increase allied health practitioners' (physiotherapists and chiropractors in Victoria, Australia) compliance with a clinical practice guideline for acute non-specific low back pain (LBP), compared with providing practitioners with a printed copy of the guideline. Specifically, our primary objectives are to establish if the intervention is effective in reducing the percentage of acute non-specific LBP patients who are either referred for or receive an x-ray, and improving mean level of disability for patients three months post-onset of acute LBP.
The design of the study is a cluster randomised trial. Restricted randomisation was used to randomise 210 practices (clusters) to an intervention or control group. Practitioners in the control group received a printed copy of the guideline. Practitioners in the intervention group received a theory-based intervention developed to address prospectively identified barriers to practitioner compliance with the guideline. The intervention primarily consisted of an educational symposium. Patients aged 18 years or older who visit a participating practitioner for acute non-specific LBP of less than three months duration over a two-week data collection period, three months post the intervention symposia, are eligible for inclusion. Sample size calculations are based on recruiting between 15 to 40 patients per practice. Outcome assessors will be blinded to group allocation.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12609001022257 (date registered 25th November 2009)
Remarkable progress has been made over the past 40 years in developing rational, evidence-based mechanisms for the allocation of health resources. Much of this progress has centred on mechanisms for commissioning new medical devices and pharmaceuticals. The attention of fund-managers and policy-makers is only now turning towards development of mechanisms for decommissioning, disinvesting or redeploying resources from currently funded interventions. While Programme Budgeting and Marginal Analysis would seem well-suited to this purpose, past applications include both successes and failures in achieving disinvestment and resource release.
Drawing on recent successes/failures in achieving disinvestment and resource release via PBMA, this paper identifies four barriers/enablers to disinvestment via PBMA: (i) specification of the budget constraint, (ii) scope of the programme budget, (iii) composition and role of the advisory group, and (iv) incentives for/against contributing to a 'shift list' of options for disinvestment and resource release. A number of modifications to the PBMA process are then proposed with the aim of reorienting PBMA towards disinvestment.
The reoriented model is differentiated by four features: (i) hard budget constraint with budgetary pressure; (ii) programme budgets with broad scope but specific investment proposals linked to disinvestment proposals with similar input requirements; (iii) advisory/working groups that include equal representation of sectional interests plus additional members with responsibility for advocating in favour of disinvestment, (iv) 'shift lists' populated and developed prior to 'wish lists' and investment proposals linked to disinvestment proposals within a relatively narrow budget area. While the argument and evidence presented here suggest that the reoriented model will facilitate disinvestment and resource release, this remains an empirical question. Likewise, further research will be required to determine whether or not the re-oriented model sacrifices feasibility and acceptability to obtain its hypothesised greater emphasis on disinvestment.
Unlike pharmaceuticals and private medical services there is no single source of funding for illness prevention and health promotion and no systematic process for setting priorities in public health. There is a need to improve the efficiency of access to health funding across prevention and treatment.
We discuss a number of reforms to existing funding arrangements including the creation of a national Preventative Priorities Advisory Committee (PrePAC) to set priorities. We propose the establishment of a PrePAC to provide evidence and set priorities across health promotion and illness prevention, with a national dedicated fund for health promotion.
A national evidence-based funding system for illness prevention and health promotion would legitimise a substantial and sustained budget for health promotion, breaking down some of the barriers in a fragmented federal health care system.
Stroke-specific outcome measures and descriptive measures of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) are unsuitable for informing decision-makers of the broader consequences of increasing or decreasing funding for stroke interventions. The quality-adjusted life year (QALY) provides a common metric for comparing interventions over multiple dimensions of HRQoL and mortality differentials. There are, however, many circumstances when – because of timing, lack of foresight or cost considerations – only stroke-specific or descriptive measures of health status are available and some indirect means of obtaining QALY-weights becomes necessary. In such circumstances, the use of regression-based transformations or mappings can circumvent the failure to elicit QALY-weights by allowing predicted weights to proxy for observed weights. This regression-based approach has been dubbed 'Transfer to Utility' (TTU) regression. The purpose of the present study is to demonstrate the feasibility and value of TTU regression in stroke by deriving transformations or mappings from stroke-specific and generic but descriptive measures of health status to a generic preference-based measure of HRQoL in a sample of Australians with a diagnosis of acute stroke. Findings will quantify the additional error associated with the use of condition-specific to generic transformations in stroke.
We used TTU regression to derive empirical transformations from three commonly used descriptive measures of health status for stroke (NIHSS, Barthel and SF-36) to a preference-based measure (AQoL) suitable for attaching QALY-weights to stroke disease states; based on 2570 observations drawn from a sample of 859 patients with stroke.
Transformations from the SF-36 to the AQoL explained up to 71.5% of variation in observed AQoL scores. Differences between mean predicted and mean observed AQoL scores from the 'severity-specific' item- and subscale-based SF-36 algorithms and from the 'moderate to severe' index- and item-based Barthel algorithm were neither clinically nor statistically significant when 'low severity' SF-36 transformations were used to predict AQoL scores for patients in the NIHSS = 0 and NIHSS = 1–5 subgroups and when 'moderate to severe severity' transformations were used to predict AQoL scores for patients in the NIHSS ≥ 6 subgroup. In contrast, the difference between mean predicted and mean observed AQoL scores from the NIHSS algorithms and from the 'low severity' Barthel algorithms reached levels that could mask minimally important differences on the AQoL scale.
While our NIHSS to AQoL transformations proved unsuitable for most applications, our findings demonstrate that stroke-relevant outcome measures such as the SF-36 and Barthel Index can be adequately transformed to preference-based measures for the purposes of economic evaluation.
To estimate the incremental cost effectiveness of ICSI, and total costs for the population of Australia.
Treatment effects for three patient groups were drawn from a published systematic review and meta-analysis of trials comparing fertilisation outcomes for ICSI. Incremental costs derived from resource-based costing of ICSI and existing practice comparators for each patient group.
Incremental cost per live birth for patients unsuited to IVF is estimated between A$8,500 and 13,400. For the subnormal semen indication, cost per live birth could be as low as A$3,600, but in the worst case scenario, there would just be additional incremental costs of A$600 per procedure. Multiplying out the additional costs of ICSI over the relevant target populations in Australia gives potential total financial implications of over A$31 million per annum.
While there are additional benefits from ICSI procedure, particularly for those with subnormal sperm, the additional cost for the health care system is substantial.
Health technology assessment; Cost-effectiveness; ICSI; IVF; Surgical sperm collection
There is an increasing body of published cost-utility analyses of health interventions which we sought to draw together to inform research and policy.
To achieve consistency in costing base and policy context, study scope was limited to Australian-based cost-effectiveness analyses. Through a comprehensive literature review we identified 245 health care interventions that met our study criteria.
The median cost-effectiveness ratio was A$18,100 (~US$13,000) per QALY/DALY/LY (quality adjusted life year gained or, disability adjusted life year averted or life year gained). Some modalities tended to perform worse, such as vaccinations and diagnostics (median cost/QALY $58,000 and $68,000 respectively), than others such as allied health, lifestyle, in-patient interventions (median cost/QALY/DALY/LY all at ~A$9,000~US$6,500). Interventions addressing some diseases such as diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance or alcohol and drug dependence tended to perform well (median cost/QALY/DALY/LY < A$3,700, < US$5,000). Interventions targeting younger persons < 25 years (median cost/QALY/DALY/LY < A$41,200) tended to perform less well than those targeting adults > 25 years (median cost/QALY/DALY/LY < A$16,000). However, there was also substantial variation in the cost effectiveness of individual interventions within and across all categories.
For any given condition, modality or setting there are likely to be examples of interventions that are cost effective and cost ineffective. It will be important for decision makers to make decisions based on the individual merits of an intervention rather than rely on broad generalisations. Further evaluation is warranted to address gaps in the literature and to ensure that evaluations are performed in areas with greatest potential benefit.
A number of recent findings imply that the value of a life saved, life-year (LY) saved or quality-adjusted life year (QALY) saved varies depending on the characteristics of the life, LY or QALY under consideration. Despite these findings, budget allocations continue to be made as if all healthy life-years are equivalent. This continued focus on simple health maximisation is partly attributable to gaps in the available evidence. The present study attempts to close some of these gaps.
Discrete choice experiment to estimate the marginal rate of substitution between cost, effectiveness and various non-health arguments. Odds of selecting profile B over profile A estimated via binary logistic regression. Marginal rates of substitution between attributes (including cost) then derived from estimated regression coefficients.
Respondents were more likely to select less costly, more effective interventions with a strong evidence base where the beneficiary did not contribute to their illness. Results also suggest that respondents preferred prevention over cure. Interventions for young children were most preferred, followed by interventions for young adults, then interventions for working age adults and with interventions targeted at the elderly given lowest priority.
Results confirm that a trade-off exists between cost, effectiveness and non-health arguments when respondents prioritise health programs. That said, it is true that respondents were more likely to select less costly, more effective interventions – confirming that it is an adjustment to, rather than an outright rejection of, simple health maximisation that is required.
The recent development and publication of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) for acute low back pain (LBP) has resulted in evidence-based recommendations that, if implemented, have the potential to improve the quality and safety of care for acute LBP. While a strategy has been specified for dissemination of the CPG for acute LBP in Australia, there is no accompanying plan for active implementation. Evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of active implementation of CPGs for acute LBP is sparse. The IMPLEMENT study will consider the incremental benefits and costs of progressing beyond development and dissemination to implementation.
Cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analyses alongside the IMPLEMENT cluster randomised controlled trial (CRCT) from a societal perspective to quantify the additional costs (savings) and health gains associated with a targeted implementation strategy as compared with access to the CPG via dissemination only.
The protocol provided here registers our intent to conduct an economic evaluation alongside the IMPLEMENT study, facilitates peer-review of proposed methods and provides a transparent statement of planned analyses.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000098538
Evidence generated from reliable research is not frequently implemented into clinical practice. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines are a potential vehicle to achieve this. A recent systematic review of implementation strategies of guideline dissemination concluded that there was a lack of evidence regarding effective strategies to promote the uptake of guidelines. Recommendations from this review, and other studies, have suggested the use of interventions that are theoretically based because these may be more effective than those that are not. An evidence-based clinical practice guideline for the management of acute low back pain was recently developed in Australia. This provides an opportunity to develop and test a theory-based implementation intervention for a condition which is common, has a high burden, and for which there is an evidence-practice gap in the primary care setting.
This study aims to test the effectiveness of a theory-based intervention for implementing a clinical practice guideline for acute low back pain in general practice in Victoria, Australia. Specifically, our primary objectives are to establish if the intervention is effective in reducing the percentage of patients who are referred for a plain x-ray, and improving mean level of disability for patients three months post-consultation.
This study protocol describes the details of a cluster randomised controlled trial. Ninety-two general practices (clusters), which include at least one consenting general practitioner, will be randomised to an intervention or control arm using restricted randomisation. Patients aged 18 years or older who visit a participating practitioner for acute non-specific low back pain of less than three months duration will be eligible for inclusion. An average of twenty-five patients per general practice will be recruited, providing a total of 2,300 patient participants. General practitioners in the control arm will receive access to the guideline using the existing dissemination strategy. Practitioners in the intervention arm will be invited to participate in facilitated face-to-face workshops that have been underpinned by behavioural theory. Investigators (not involved in the delivery of the intervention), patients, outcome assessors and the study statistician will be blinded to group allocation.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000098538 (date registered 14/03/2006).
Purpose: To determine whether between-trial heterogeneity in relative risk of fertilisation for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) compared to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can be explained by learning or by between-trial variation in patient characteristics.
Methods: Systematic review and meta-analysis of trials comparing fertilisation outcomes for ICSI and IVF (without surgical sperm retrieval). Meta-regressions to identify associations between treatment effect and trial characteristics.
Results: Coefficients on individually significant covariates from the meta-regressions confirm that the ICSI versus IVF treatment effect is increased when patients are “unsuited for IVF” but reduced as semen quality improves and when IVF insemination concentrations are increased. However, the relative risk of fertilisation varies inversely with publication date; contrary to the hypothesised learning effect.
Conclusion: While it is recognised that publication date might proxy for unobserved covariates, the possibility of a learning effect in favour of ICSI is not supported by the meta-regression.
Health technology assessment; ICSI; IVF; meta-regression.
The Health-sector Wide (HsW) priority setting model is designed to shift the focus of priority setting away from 'program budgets' – that are typically defined by modality or disease-stage – and towards well-defined target populations with a particular disease/health problem.
The key features of the HsW model are i) a disease/health problem framework, ii) a sequential approach to covering the entire health sector, iii) comprehensiveness of scope in identifying intervention options and iv) the use of objective evidence. The HsW model redefines the unit of analysis over which priorities are set to include all mutually exclusive and complementary interventions for the prevention and treatment of each disease/health problem under consideration. The HsW model is therefore incompatible with the fragmented approach to priority setting across multiple program budgets that currently characterises allocation in many health systems. The HsW model employs standard cost-utility analyses and decision-rules with the aim of maximising QALYs contingent upon the global budget constraint for the set of diseases/health problems under consideration. It is recognised that the objective function may include non-health arguments that would imply a departure from simple QALY maximisation and that political constraints frequently limit degrees of freedom. In addressing these broader considerations, the HsW model can be modified to maximise value-weighted QALYs contingent upon the global budget constraint and any political constraints bearing upon allocation decisions.
The HsW model has been applied in several contexts, recently to osteoarthritis, that has demonstrated both its practical application and its capacity to derive clear evidenced-based policy recommendations.
Comparisons with other approaches to priority setting, such as Programme Budgeting and Marginal Analysis (PBMA) and modality-based cost-effectiveness comparisons, as typified by Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee process for the listing of pharmaceuticals for government funding, demonstrate the value added by the HsW model notably in its greater likelihood of contributing to allocative efficiency.