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1.  Explaining clinical behaviors using multiple theoretical models 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-99
PMCID: PMC3500222  PMID: 23075284
2.  What is the role and authority of gatekeepers in cluster randomized trials in health research? 
Trials  2012;13:116.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, we set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the CRT is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the sixth of the questions posed, namely, what is the role and authority of gatekeepers in CRTs in health research? ‘Gatekeepers’ are individuals or bodies that represent the interests of cluster members, clusters, or organizations. The need for gatekeepers arose in response to the difficulties in obtaining informed consent because of cluster randomization, cluster-level interventions, and cluster size. In this paper, we call for a more restrictive understanding of the role and authority of gatekeepers.
Previous papers in this series have provided solutions to the challenges posed by informed consent in CRTs without the need to invoke gatekeepers. We considered that consent to randomization is not required when cluster members are approached for consent at the earliest opportunity and before any study interventions or data-collection procedures have started. Further, when cluster-level interventions or cluster size means that obtaining informed consent is not possible, a waiver of consent may be appropriate. In this paper, we suggest that the role of gatekeepers in protecting individual interests in CRTs should be limited. Generally, gatekeepers do not have the authority to provide proxy consent for cluster members. When a municipality or other community has a legitimate political authority that is empowered to make such decisions, cluster permission may be appropriate; however, gatekeepers may usefully protect cluster interests in other ways. Cluster consultation may ensure that the CRT addresses local health needs, and is conducted in accord with local values and customs. Gatekeepers may also play an important role in protecting the interests of organizations, such as hospitals, nursing homes, general practices, and schools. In these settings, permission to access the organization relies on resource implications and adherence to institutional policies.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-116
PMCID: PMC3443001  PMID: 22834691
3.  Developing clinical practice guidelines: types of evidence and outcomes; values and economics, synthesis, grading, and presentation and deriving recommendations 
Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve healthcare. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearinghouses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this second paper, we discuss issues of identifying and synthesizing evidence: deciding what type of evidence and outcomes to include in guidelines; integrating values into a guideline; incorporating economic considerations; synthesis, grading, and presentation of evidence; and moving from evidence to recommendations.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-61
PMCID: PMC3436711  PMID: 22762158
4.  Developing clinical practice guidelines: reviewing, reporting, and publishing guidelines; updating guidelines; and the emerging issues of enhancing guideline implementability and accounting for comorbid conditions in guideline development 
Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve health care. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearing houses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this third paper we discuss the issues of: reviewing, reporting, and publishing guidelines; updating guidelines; and the two emerging issues of enhancing guideline implementability and how guideline developers should approach dealing with the issue of patients who will be the subject of guidelines having co-morbid conditions.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-62
PMCID: PMC3503794  PMID: 22762242
5.  Developing clinical practice guidelines: target audiences, identifying topics for guidelines, guideline group composition and functioning and conflicts of interest 
Clinical practice guidelines are one of the foundations of efforts to improve health care. In 1999, we authored a paper about methods to develop guidelines. Since it was published, the methods of guideline development have progressed both in terms of methods and necessary procedures and the context for guideline development has changed with the emergence of guideline clearing houses and large scale guideline production organisations (such as the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). It therefore seems timely to, in a series of three articles, update and extend our earlier paper. In this first paper we discuss: the target audience(s) for guidelines and their use of guidelines; identifying topics for guidelines; guideline group composition (including consumer involvement) and the processes by which guideline groups function and the important procedural issue of managing conflicts of interest in guideline development.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-60
PMCID: PMC3523009  PMID: 22762776
6.  Knowledge translation of research findings 
Background
One of the most consistent findings from clinical and health services research is the failure to translate research into practice and policy. As a result of these evidence-practice and policy gaps, patients fail to benefit optimally from advances in healthcare and are exposed to unnecessary risks of iatrogenic harms, and healthcare systems are exposed to unnecessary expenditure resulting in significant opportunity costs. Over the last decade, there has been increasing international policy and research attention on how to reduce the evidence-practice and policy gap. In this paper, we summarise the current concepts and evidence to guide knowledge translation activities, defined as T2 research (the translation of new clinical knowledge into improved health). We structure the article around five key questions: what should be transferred; to whom should research knowledge be transferred; by whom should research knowledge be transferred; how should research knowledge be transferred; and, with what effect should research knowledge be transferred?
Discussion
We suggest that the basic unit of knowledge translation should usually be up-to-date systematic reviews or other syntheses of research findings. Knowledge translators need to identify the key messages for different target audiences and to fashion these in language and knowledge translation products that are easily assimilated by different audiences. The relative importance of knowledge translation to different target audiences will vary by the type of research and appropriate endpoints of knowledge translation may vary across different stakeholder groups. There are a large number of planned knowledge translation models, derived from different disciplinary, contextual (i.e., setting), and target audience viewpoints. Most of these suggest that planned knowledge translation for healthcare professionals and consumers is more likely to be successful if the choice of knowledge translation strategy is informed by an assessment of the likely barriers and facilitators. Although our evidence on the likely effectiveness of different strategies to overcome specific barriers remains incomplete, there is a range of informative systematic reviews of interventions aimed at healthcare professionals and consumers (i.e., patients, family members, and informal carers) and of factors important to research use by policy makers.
Summary
There is a substantial (if incomplete) evidence base to guide choice of knowledge translation activities targeting healthcare professionals and consumers. The evidence base on the effects of different knowledge translation approaches targeting healthcare policy makers and senior managers is much weaker but there are a profusion of innovative approaches that warrant further evaluation.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-50
PMCID: PMC3462671  PMID: 22651257
7.  Does the world need a scientific society for research on how to improve healthcare? 
In this editorial, we reflect on the arguments for starting a scientific society focused on research on how to improve healthcare. This society would take an inclusive approach to what constitutes healthcare. For instance, it should include mental health healthcare, treatment for substance abuse, the work of allied health professions, and preventive healthcare. The society would be open to researchers from all traditions. Thus, we take an inclusive approach to what constitutes scientific research, as long as it uses rigorous methods, is focused on improving healthcare, and aims at knowledge that can be transferred across settings. The society would primarily target scientific researchers but would invite others with an interest in this area of research, regardless of their discipline, position, field of application, or group affiliation (e.g., improvement science, behavioral medicine, knowledge translation). A society would need fruitful collaboration with related societies and organizations, which may include having combined meetings. Special links may be developed with one or more journals. A website to provide information on relevant resources, events, and training opportunities is another key activity. It would also provide a voice for the field at funding agencies, political arenas, and similar institutions. An organizational structure and financial resources are required to develop and run these activities. Our aim is to start an international debate, to discover if we can establish a shared vision across academics and stakeholders engaged with creating scientific knowledge on how to improve healthcare. We invite readers to express their views in the online questionnaire accessed by following the URL link provided at the end of the editorial.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-10
PMCID: PMC3292444  PMID: 22376988
8.  When is informed consent required in cluster randomized trials in health research? 
Trials  2011;12:202.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, we set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the cluster trial is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the second of the questions posed, namely, from whom, when, and how must informed consent be obtained in CRTs in health research? The ethical principle of respect for persons implies that researchers are generally obligated to obtain the informed consent of research subjects. Aspects of CRT design, including cluster randomization, cluster level interventions, and cluster size, present challenges to obtaining informed consent. Here we address five questions related to consent and CRTs: How can a study proceed if informed consent is not possible? Is consent to randomization always required? What information must be disclosed to potential subjects if their cluster has already been randomized? Is passive consent a valid substitute for informed consent? Do health professionals have a moral obligation to participate as subjects in CRTs designed to improve professional practice?
We set out a framework based on the moral foundations of informed consent and international regulatory provisions to address each of these questions. First, when informed consent is not possible, a study may proceed if a research ethics committee is satisfied that conditions for a waiver of consent are satisfied. Second, informed consent to randomization may not be required if it is not possible to approach subjects at the time of randomization. Third, when potential subjects are approached after cluster randomization, they must be provided with a detailed description of the interventions in the trial arm to which their cluster has been randomized; detailed information on interventions in other trial arms need not be provided. Fourth, while passive consent may serve a variety of practical ends, it is not a substitute for valid informed consent. Fifth, while health professionals may have a moral obligation to participate as subjects in research, this does not diminish the necessity of informed consent to study participation.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-12-202
PMCID: PMC3184061  PMID: 21906277
9.  Who is the research subject in cluster randomized trials in health research? 
Trials  2011;12:183.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, we set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the CRT is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the first of the questions posed, namely, who is the research subject in a CRT in health research? The identification of human research subjects is logically prior to the application of protections as set out in research ethics and regulation. Aspects of CRT design, including the fact that in a single study the units of randomization, experimentation, and observation may differ, complicate the identification of human research subjects. But the proper identification of human research subjects is important if they are to be protected from harm and exploitation, and if research ethics committees are to review CRTs efficiently.
We examine the research ethics literature and international regulations to identify the core features of human research subjects, and then unify these features under a single, comprehensive definition of human research subject. We define a human research subject as any person whose interests may be compromised as a result of interventions in a research study. Individuals are only human research subjects in CRTs if: (1) they are directly intervened upon by investigators; (2) they interact with investigators; (3) they are deliberately intervened upon via a manipulation of their environment that may compromise their interests; or (4) their identifiable private information is used to generate data. Individuals who are indirectly affected by CRT study interventions, including patients of healthcare providers participating in knowledge translation CRTs, are not human research subjects unless at least one of these conditions is met.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-12-183
PMCID: PMC3162904  PMID: 21791064
10.  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 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-6-55
PMCID: PMC3125229  PMID: 21619689
11.  Does clinical equipoise apply to cluster randomized trials in health research? 
Trials  2011;12:118.
This article is part of a series of papers examining ethical issues in cluster randomized trials (CRTs) in health research. In the introductory paper in this series, Weijer and colleagues set out six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the cluster trial is to be set on a firm ethical foundation. This paper addresses the third of the questions posed, namely, does clinical equipoise apply to CRTs in health research? The ethical principle of beneficence is the moral obligation not to harm needlessly and, when possible, to promote the welfare of research subjects. Two related ethical problems have been discussed in the CRT literature. First, are control groups that receive only usual care unduly disadvantaged? Second, when accumulating data suggests the superiority of one intervention in a trial, is there an ethical obligation to act?
In individually randomized trials involving patients, similar questions are addressed by the concept of clinical equipoise, that is, the ethical requirement that, at the start of a trial, there be a state of honest, professional disagreement in the community of expert practitioners as to the preferred treatment. Since CRTs may not involve physician-researchers and patient-subjects, the applicability of clinical equipoise to CRTs is uncertain. Here we argue that clinical equipoise may be usefully grounded in a trust relationship between the state and research subjects, and, as a result, clinical equipoise is applicable to CRTs. Clinical equipoise is used to argue that control groups receiving only usual care are not disadvantaged so long as the evidence supporting the experimental and control interventions is such that experts would disagree as to which is preferred. Further, while data accumulating during the course of a CRT may favor one intervention over another, clinical equipoise supports continuing the trial until the results are likely to be broadly convincing, often coinciding with the planned completion of the trial. Finally, clinical equipoise provides research ethics committees with formal and procedural guidelines that form an important part of the assessment of the benefits and harms of CRTs in health research.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-12-118
PMCID: PMC3113987  PMID: 21569349
12.  Ethical issues posed by cluster randomized trials in health research 
Trials  2011;12:100.
The cluster randomized trial (CRT) is used increasingly in knowledge translation research, quality improvement research, community based intervention studies, public health research, and research in developing countries. However, cluster trials raise difficult ethical issues that challenge researchers, research ethics committees, regulators, and sponsors as they seek to fulfill responsibly their respective roles. Our project will provide a systematic analysis of the ethics of cluster trials. Here we have outlined a series of six areas of inquiry that must be addressed if the cluster trial is to be set on a firm ethical foundation:
1. Who is a research subject?
2. From whom, how, and when must informed consent be obtained?
3. Does clinical equipoise apply to CRTs?
4. How do we determine if the benefits outweigh the risks of CRTs?
5. How ought vulnerable groups be protected in CRTs?
6. Who are gatekeepers and what are their responsibilities?
Subsequent papers in this series will address each of these areas, clarifying the ethical issues at stake and, where possible, arguing for a preferred solution. Our hope is that these papers will serve as the basis for the creation of international ethical guidelines for the design and conduct of cluster randomized trials.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-12-100
PMCID: PMC3107798  PMID: 21507237
13.  Using the theory of planned behaviour as a process evaluation tool in randomised trials of knowledge translation strategies: A case study from UK primary care 
Background
Randomised trials of knowledge translation strategies for professional behaviour change can provide robust estimates of effectiveness, but offer little insight into the causal mechanisms by which any change is produced. To illustrate the applicability of causal methods within randomised trials, we undertook a theory-based process evaluation study within an implementation trial to explore whether the cognitions of primary care doctors' predicted their test requesting behaviours and, secondly, whether the trial results were mediated by the theoretical constructs.
Methods
The process evaluation comprised a cross-sectional questionnaire survey of a random 50% sample of the randomised groups of primary care practices in Grampian (NHS Grampian), UK, who took part in a trial of the effect of enhanced feedback and brief educational reminders on test requesting behaviour. The process evaluation was based upon the Theory of Planned Behaviour and focussed on three of the test requesting behaviours that were targeted in the trial -- ferritin, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and Helicobacter Pylori serology (HPS).
Results
The questionnaire was completed by 131 primary care doctors (56%) from 42 (98%) of the sampled practices. Behavioural intention, attitude, and subjective norm were highly correlated for all the tests. There was no evidence that perceived behavioural control was correlated with any of the other measures. Simple linear regression analysis of the rate of test requests on minimum behavioural intentions had R2 of 11.1%, 12.5%, and 0.1% for ferritin, FSH, and HPS requesting, respectively. Mediational analysis showed that the trial results for ferritin and FSH were partially mediated (between 23% and 78% mediation) through intentions. The HPS trial result was not mediated through intention.
Conclusions
This study demonstrated that a theory-based process evaluation can provide useful information on causal mechanisms that aid not only interpretation of the trial but also inform future evaluations and intervention development.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-5-71
PMCID: PMC2959079  PMID: 20920277
14.  The translation research in a dental setting (TRiaDS) programme protocol 
Background
It is well documented that the translation of knowledge into clinical practice is a slow and haphazard process. This is no less true for dental healthcare than other types of healthcare. One common policy strategy to help promote knowledge translation is the production of clinical guidance, but it has been demonstrated that the simple publication of guidance is unlikely to optimise practice. Additional knowledge translation interventions have been shown to be effective, but effectiveness varies and much of this variation is unexplained. The need for researchers to move beyond single studies to develop a generalisable, theory based, knowledge translation framework has been identified.
For dentistry in Scotland, the production of clinical guidance is the responsibility of the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP). TRiaDS (Translation Research in a Dental Setting) is a multidisciplinary research collaboration, embedded within the SDCEP guidance development process, which aims to establish a practical evaluative framework for the translation of guidance and to conduct and evaluate a programme of integrated, multi-disciplinary research to enhance the science of knowledge translation.
Methods
Set in General Dental Practice the TRiaDS programmatic evaluation employs a standardised process using optimal methods and theory. For each SDCEP guidance document a diagnostic analysis is undertaken alongside the guidance development process. Information is gathered about current dental care activities. Key recommendations and their required behaviours are identified and prioritised. Stakeholder questionnaires and interviews are used to identify and elicit salient beliefs regarding potential barriers and enablers towards the key recommendations and behaviours. Where possible routinely collected data are used to measure compliance with the guidance and to inform decisions about whether a knowledge translation intervention is required. Interventions are theory based and informed by evidence gathered during the diagnostic phase and by prior published evidence. They are evaluated using a range of experimental and quasi-experimental study designs, and data collection continues beyond the end of the intervention to investigate the sustainability of an intervention effect.
Discussion
The TRiaDS programmatic approach is a significant step forward towards the development of a practical, generalisable framework for knowledge translation research. The multidisciplinary composition of the TRiaDS team enables consideration of the individual, organisational and system determinants of professional behaviour change. In addition the embedding of TRiaDS within a national programme of guidance development offers a unique opportunity to inform and influence the guidance development process, and enables TRiaDS to inform dental services practitioners, policy makers and patients on how best to translate national recommendations into routine clinical activities.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-5-57
PMCID: PMC2920875  PMID: 20646275
15.  Electronic search strategies to identify reports of cluster randomized trials in MEDLINE: low precision will improve with adherence to reporting standards 
Background
Cluster randomized trials (CRTs) present unique methodological and ethical challenges. Researchers conducting systematic reviews of CRTs (e.g., addressing methodological or ethical issues) require efficient electronic search strategies (filters or hedges) to identify trials in electronic databases such as MEDLINE. According to the CONSORT statement extension to CRTs, the clustered design should be clearly identified in titles or abstracts; however, variability in terminology may make electronic identification challenging. Our objectives were to (a) evaluate sensitivity ("recall") and precision of a well-known electronic search strategy ("randomized controlled trial" as publication type) with respect to identifying CRTs, (b) evaluate the feasibility of new search strategies targeted specifically at CRTs, and (c) determine whether CRTs are appropriately identified in titles or abstracts of reports and whether there has been improvement over time.
Methods
We manually examined a wide range of health journals to identify a gold standard set of CRTs. Search strategies were evaluated against the gold standard set, as well as an independent set of CRTs included in previous systematic reviews.
Results
The existing strategy (randomized controlled trial.pt) is sensitive (93.8%) for identifying CRTs, but has relatively low precision (9%, number needed to read 11); the number needed to read can be halved to 5 (precision 18.4%) by combining with cluster design-related terms using the Boolean operator AND; combining with the Boolean operator OR maximizes sensitivity (99.4%) but would require 28.6 citations read to identify one CRT. Only about 50% of CRTs are clearly identified as cluster randomized in titles or abstracts; approximately 25% can be identified based on the reported units of randomization but are not amenable to electronic searching; the remaining 25% cannot be identified except through manual inspection of the full-text article. The proportion of trials clearly identified has increased from 28% between the years 2000-2003, to 60% between 2004-2007 (absolute increase 32%, 95% CI 17 to 47%).
Conclusions
CRTs should include the phrase "cluster randomized trial" in titles or abstracts; this will facilitate more accurate indexing of the publication type by reviewers at the National Library of Medicine, and efficient textword retrieval of the subset employing cluster randomization.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-10-15
PMCID: PMC2833170  PMID: 20158899
16.  Using theories of behaviour to understand transfusion prescribing in three clinical contexts in two countries: Development work for an implementation trial 
Background
Blood transfusion is an essential part of healthcare and can improve patient outcomes. However, like most therapies, it is also associated with significant clinical risks. In addition, there is some evidence of overuse. Understanding the potential barriers and enablers to reduced prescribing of blood products will facilitate the selection of intervention components likely to be effective, thereby reducing the number of costly trials evaluating different implementation strategies. Using a theoretical basis to understand behaviours targeted for change will contribute to a 'basic science' relating to determinants of professional behaviour and how these inform the selection of techniques for changing behaviour. However, it is not clear which theories of behaviour are relevant to clinicians' transfusing behaviour. The aim of this study is to use a theoretical domains framework to identify relevant theories, and to use these theories to identify factors that predict the decision to transfuse.
Methods
The study involves two steps: interview study and questionnaire study. Using a previously identified framework, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with clinicians to elicit their views about which factors are associated with waiting and further monitoring the patient rather than transfusing red blood cells. Interviews will cover the following theoretical domains: knowledge; skills; social/professional role and identity; beliefs about capabilities; beliefs about consequences; motivation and goals; memory, attention, and decision processes; environmental context and resources; social influences; emotion; behavioural regulation; nature of the behaviour. The interviews will take place independently in Canada and the UK and involve two groups of physicians in each country (UK: adult and neonatal intensive care physicians; Canada: intensive care physicians and orthopaedic surgeons). We will: analyse interview transcript content to select relevant theoretical domains; use consensus processes to map these domains on to theories of behaviour; develop questionnaires based on these theories; and mail them to each group of physicians in the two countries. From our previous work, it is likely that the theories will include: theory of planned behaviour, social cognitive theory and the evidence-based strategy, implementation intention. The questionnaire data will measure predictor variables (theoretical constructs) and outcome variables (intention and clinical decision), and will be analysed using multiple regression analysis. We aim to achieve 150 respondents in each of the four groups for each postal survey.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-4-70
PMCID: PMC2777847  PMID: 19852832
17.  Ethical and policy issues in cluster randomized trials: rationale and design of a mixed methods research study 
Trials  2009;10:61.
Background
Cluster randomized trials are an increasingly important methodological tool in health research. In cluster randomized trials, intact social units or groups of individuals, such as medical practices, schools, or entire communities – rather than individual themselves – are randomly allocated to intervention or control conditions, while outcomes are then observed on individual cluster members. The substantial methodological differences between cluster randomized trials and conventional randomized trials pose serious challenges to the current conceptual framework for research ethics. The ethical implications of randomizing groups rather than individuals are not addressed in current research ethics guidelines, nor have they even been thoroughly explored. The main objectives of this research are to: (1) identify ethical issues arising in cluster trials and learn how they are currently being addressed; (2) understand how ethics reviews of cluster trials are carried out in different countries (Canada, the USA and the UK); (3) elicit the views and experiences of trial participants and cluster representatives; (4) develop well-grounded guidelines for the ethical conduct and review of cluster trials by conducting an extensive ethical analysis and organizing a consensus process; (5) disseminate the guidelines to researchers, research ethics boards (REBs), journal editors, and research funders.
Methods
We will use a mixed-methods (qualitative and quantitative) approach incorporating both empirical and conceptual work. Empirical work will include a systematic review of a random sample of published trials, a survey and in-depth interviews with trialists, a survey of REBs, and in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with trial participants and gatekeepers. The empirical work will inform the concurrent ethical analysis which will lead to a guidance document laying out principles, policy options, and rationale for proposed guidelines. An Expert Panel of researchers, ethicists, health lawyers, consumer advocates, REB members, and representatives from low-middle income countries will be appointed. A consensus conference will be convened and draft guidelines will be generated by the Panel; an e-consultation phase will then be launched to invite comments from the broader community of researchers, policy-makers, and the public before a final set of guidelines is generated by the Panel and widely disseminated by the research team.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-10-61
PMCID: PMC2725043  PMID: 19638233
18.  Specifying and reporting complex behaviour change interventions: the need for a scientific method 
Complex behaviour change interventions are not well described; when they are described, the terminology used is inconsistent. This constrains scientific replication, and limits the subsequent introduction of successful interventions. Implementation Science is introducing a policy of initially encouraging and subsequently requiring the scientific reporting of complex behaviour change interventions.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-4-40
PMCID: PMC2717906  PMID: 19607700
19.  Ethical issues in implementation research: a discussion of the problems in achieving informed consent 
Background
Improved quality of care is a policy objective of health care systems around the world. Implementation research is the scientific study of methods to promote the systematic uptake of clinical research findings into routine clinical practice, and hence to reduce inappropriate care. It includes the study of influences on healthcare professionals' behaviour and methods to enable them to use research findings more effectively. Cluster randomized trials represent the optimal design for evaluating the effectiveness of implementation strategies. Various codes of medical ethics, such as the Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki inform medical research, but their relevance to cluster randomised trials in implementation research is unclear. This paper discusses the applicability of various ethical codes to obtaining consent in cluster trials in implementation research.
Discussion
The appropriate application of biomedical codes to implementation research is not obvious. Discussion of the nature and practice of informed consent in implementation research cluster trials must consider the levels at which consent can be sought, and for what purpose it can be sought. The level at which an intervention is delivered can render the idea of patient level consent meaningless. Careful consideration of the ownership of information, and rights of access to and exploitation of data is required. For health care professionals and organizations, there is a balance between clinical freedom and responsibility to participate in research.
Summary
While ethical justification for clinical trials relies heavily on individual consent, for implementation research aspects of distributive justice, economics, and political philosophy underlie the debate. Societies may need to trade off decisions on the choice between individualized consent and valid implementation research. We suggest that social sciences codes could usefully inform the consideration of implementation research by members of Research Ethics Committees.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-3-52
PMCID: PMC2639614  PMID: 19091100
20.  Explaining the effects of an intervention designed to promote evidence-based diabetes care: a theory-based process evaluation of a pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial 
Background
The results of randomised controlled trials can be usefully illuminated by studies of the processes by which they achieve their effects. The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) offers a framework for conducting such studies. This study used TPB to explore the observed effects in a pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial of a structured recall and prompting intervention to increase evidence-based diabetes care that was conducted in three Primary Care Trusts in England.
Methods
All general practitioners and nurses in practices involved in the trial were sent a postal questionnaire at the end of the intervention period, based on the TPB (predictor variables: attitude; subjective norm; perceived behavioural control, or PBC). It focussed on three clinical behaviours recommended in diabetes care: measuring blood pressure; inspecting feet; and prescribing statins. Multivariate analyses of variance and multiple regression analyses were used to explore changes in cognitions and thereby better understand trial effects.
Results
Fifty-nine general medical practitioners and 53 practice nurses (intervention: n = 55, 41.98% of trial participants; control: n = 57, 38.26% of trial participants) completed the questionnaire. There were no differences between groups in mean scores for attitudes, subjective norms, PBC or intentions. Control group clinicians had 'normatively-driven' intentions (i.e., related to subjective norm scores), whereas intervention group clinicians had 'attitudinally-driven' intentions (i.e., related to attitude scores) for foot inspection and statin prescription. After controlling for effects of the three predictor variables, this group difference was significant for foot inspection behaviour (trial group × attitude interaction, beta = 0.72, p < 0.05; trial group × subjective norm interaction, beta = -0.65, p < 0.05).
Conclusion
Attitudinally-driven intentions are proposed to be more consistently translated into action than normatively-driven intentions. This proposition was supported by the findings, thus offering an interpretation of the trial effects. This analytic approach demonstrates the potential of the TPB to explain trial effects in terms of different relationships between variables rather than differences in mean scores. This study illustrates the use of theory-based process evaluation to uncover processes underlying change in implementation trials.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-3-50
PMCID: PMC2603022  PMID: 19019242
21.  Testing a TheoRY-inspired MEssage ('TRY-ME'): a sub-trial within the Ontario Printed Educational Message (OPEM) trial 
Background
A challenge for implementation researchers is to develop principles that could generate testable hypotheses that apply across a range of clinical contexts, thus leading to generalisability of findings. Such principles may be provided by systematically developed theories. The opportunity has arisen to test some of these theoretical principles in the Ontario Printed Educational Materials (OPEM) trial by conducting a sub-trial within the existing trial structure. OPEM is a large factorial cluster-randomised trial evaluating the effects of short directive and long discursive educational messages embedded into informed, an evidence-based newsletter produced in Canada by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and mailed to all primary care physicians in Ontario. The content of educational messages in the sub-trial will be constructed using both standard methods and methods inspired by psychological theory. The aim of this study is to test the effectiveness of the TheoRY-inspired MEssage ('TRY-ME') compared with the 'standard' message in changing prescribing behaviour.
Methods
The OPEM trial participants randomised to receive the short directive message attached to the outside of informed (an 'outsert') will be sub-randomised to receive either a standard message or a message informed by the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) using a two (long insert or no insert) by three (theory-based outsert or standard outsert or no outsert) design. The messages will relate to prescription of thiazide diuretics as first line drug treatment for hypertension (described in the accompanying protocol, "The Ontario Printed Educational Materials trial"). The short messages will be developed independently by two research teams.
The primary outcome is prescription of thiazide diuretics, measured by routinely collected data available within ICES. The study is designed to answer the question, is there any difference in guideline adherence (i.e., thiazide prescription rates) between physicians in the six groups? A process evaluation survey instrument based on the TPB will be administered pre- and post-intervention (described in the accompanying protocol, "Looking inside the black box"). The second research question concerns processes that may underlie observed differences in prescribing behaviour. We expect that effects of the messages on prescribing behaviour will be mediated through changes in physicians' cognitions.
Trial registration number
Current controlled trial ISRCTN72772651
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-2-39
PMCID: PMC2216024  PMID: 18039363
22.  Looking inside the black box: a theory-based process evaluation alongside a randomised controlled trial of printed educational materials (the Ontario printed educational message, OPEM) to improve referral and prescribing practices in primary care in Ontario, Canada 
Background
Randomised controlled trials of implementation strategies tell us whether (or not) an intervention results in changes in professional behaviour but little about the causal mechanisms that produce any change. Theory-based process evaluations collect data on theoretical constructs alongside randomised trials to explore possible causal mechanisms and effect modifiers. This is similar to measuring intermediate endpoints in clinical trials to further understand the biological basis of any observed effects (for example, measuring lipid profiles alongside trials of lipid lowering drugs where the primary endpoint could be reduction in vascular related deaths).
This study protocol describes a theory-based process evaluation alongside the Ontario Printed Educational Message (OPEM) trial. We hypothesize that the OPEM interventions are most likely to operate through changes in physicians' behavioural intentions due to improved attitudes or subjective norms with little or no change in perceived behavioural control. We will test this hypothesis using a well-validated social cognition model, the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) that incorporates these constructs.
Methods/design
We will develop theory-based surveys using standard methods based upon the TPB for the second and third replications, and survey a subsample of Ontario family physicians from each arm of the trial two months before and six months after the dissemination of the index edition of informed, the evidence based newsletter used for the interventions. In the third replication, our study will converge with the "TRY-ME" protocol (a second study conducted alongside the OPEM trial), in which the content of educational messages was constructed using both standard methods and methods informed by psychological theory. We will modify Dillman's total design method to maximise response rates. Preliminary analyses will initially assess the internal reliability of the measures and use regression to explore the relationships between predictor and dependent variable (intention to advise diabetic patients to have annual retinopathy screening and to prescribe thiazide diuretics for first line treatment of uncomplicated hypertension). We will then compare groups using methods appropriate for comparing independent samples to determine whether there have been changes in the predicted constructs (attitudes, subjective norms, or intentions) across the study groups as hypothesised, and will assess the convergence between the process evaluation results and the main trial results.
Trial registration number
Current controlled trial ISRCTN72772651
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-2-38
PMCID: PMC2213685  PMID: 18039362
23.  Applying psychological theories to evidence-based clinical practice: Identifying factors predictive of managing upper respiratory tract infections without antibiotics 
Background
Psychological models can be used to understand and predict behaviour in a wide range of settings. However, they have not been consistently applied to health professional behaviours, and the contribution of differing theories is not clear. The aim of this study was to explore the usefulness of a range of psychological theories to predict health professional behaviour relating to management of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) without antibiotics.
Methods
Psychological measures were collected by postal questionnaire survey from a random sample of general practitioners (GPs) in Scotland. The outcome measures were clinical behaviour (using antibiotic prescription rates as a proxy indicator), behavioural simulation (scenario-based decisions to managing URTI with or without antibiotics) and behavioural intention (general intention to managing URTI without antibiotics). Explanatory variables were the constructs within the following theories: 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 (SM), and knowledge (a non-theoretical construct). For each outcome measure, multiple regression analysis was used to examine the predictive value of each theoretical model individually. Following this 'theory level' analysis, a 'cross theory' analysis was conducted to investigate the combined predictive value of all significant individual constructs across theories.
Results
All theories were tested, but only significant results are presented. When predicting behaviour, at the theory level, OLT explained 6% of the variance and, in a cross theory analysis, OLT 'evidence of habitual behaviour' also explained 6%. When predicting behavioural simulation, at the theory level, the proportion of variance explained was: TPB, 31%; SCT, 26%; II, 6%; OLT, 24%. GPs who reported having already decided to change their management to try to avoid the use of antibiotics made significantly fewer scenario-based decisions to prescribe. In the cross theory analysis, perceived behavioural control (TPB), evidence of habitual behaviour (OLT), CS-SRM cause (chance/bad luck), and intention entered the equation, together explaining 36% of the variance. When predicting intention, at the theory level, the proportion of variance explained was: TPB, 30%; SCT, 29%; CS-SRM 27%; OLT, 43%. GPs who reported that they had already decided to change their management to try to avoid the use of antibiotics had a significantly higher intention to manage URTIs without prescribing antibiotics. In the cross theory analysis, OLT evidence of habitual behaviour, TPB attitudes, risk perception, CS-SRM control by doctor, TPB perceived behavioural control and CS-SRM control by treatment entered the equation, together explaining 49% of the variance in intention.
Conclusion
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 predict clinical behaviour. However, a number of conceptual and methodological challenges remain.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-2-26
PMCID: PMC2042498  PMID: 17683558
24.  Is the involvement of opinion leaders in the implementation of research findings a feasible strategy? 
Background
There is only limited empirical evidence about the effectiveness of opinion leaders as health care change agents.
Aim
To test the feasibility of identifying, and the characteristics of, opinion leaders using a sociometric instrument and a self-designating instrument in different professional groups within the UK National Health Service.
Design
Postal questionnaire survey.
Setting and participants
All general practitioners, practice nurses and practice managers in two regions of Scotland. All physicians and surgeons (junior hospital doctors and consultants) and medical and surgical nursing staff in two district general hospitals and one teaching hospital in Scotland, as well as all Scottish obstetric and gynaecology, and oncology consultants.
Results
Using the sociometric instrument, the extent of social networks and potential coverage of the study population in primary and secondary care was highly idiosyncratic. In contrast, relatively complex networks with good coverage rates were observed in both national specialty groups. Identified opinion leaders were more likely to have the expected characteristics of opinion leaders identified from diffusion and social influence theories. Moreover, opinion leaders appeared to be condition-specific. The self-designating instrument identified more opinion leaders, but it was not possible to estimate the extent and structure of social networks or likely coverage by opinion leaders. There was poor agreement in the responses to the sociometric and self-designating instruments.
Conclusion
The feasibility of identifying opinion leaders using an off-the-shelf sociometric instrument is variable across different professional groups and settings within the NHS. Whilst it is possible to identify opinion leaders using a self-designating instrument, the effectiveness of such opinion leaders has not been rigorously tested in health care settings. Opinion leaders appear to be monomorphic (different leaders for different issues). Recruitment of opinion leaders is unlikely to be an effective general strategy across all settings and professional groups; the more specialised the group, the more opinion leaders may be a useful strategy.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-1-3
PMCID: PMC1436013  PMID: 16722572

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