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1.  Looking inside the black box: results of a theory-based process evaluation exploring the results of a randomized controlled trial of printed educational messages to increase primary care physicians’ diabetic retinopathy referrals [Trial registration number ISRCTN72772651] 
Theory-based process evaluations conducted alongside randomized controlled trials provide the opportunity to investigate hypothesized mechanisms of action of interventions, helping to build a cumulative knowledge base and to inform the interpretation of individual trial outcomes. Our objective was to identify the underlying causal mechanisms in a cluster randomized trial of the effectiveness of printed educational materials (PEMs) to increase referral for diabetic retinopathy screening. We hypothesized that the PEMs would increase physicians’ intention to refer patients for retinal screening by strengthening their attitude and subjective norm, but not their perceived behavioral control.
Design: A theory based process evaluation alongside the Ontario Printed Educational Material (OPEM) cluster randomized trial. Postal surveys based on the Theory of Planned Behavior were sent to a random sample of trial participants two months before and six months after they received the intervention. Setting: Family physicians in Ontario, Canada. Participants: 1,512 family physicians (252 per intervention group) from the OPEM trial were invited to participate, and 31.3% (473/1512) responded at time one and time two. The final sample comprised 437 family physicians fully completing questionnaires at both time points. Main outcome measures: Primary: behavioral intention related to referring patient for retinopathy screening; secondary: attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control.
At baseline, family physicians reported positive intention, attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control to advise patients about retinopathy screening suggesting limited opportunities for improvement in these constructs. There were no significant differences on intention, attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control following the intervention. Respondents also reported additional physician- and patient-related factors perceived to influence whether patients received retinopathy screening.
Lack of change in the primary and secondary theory-based outcomes provides an explanation for the lack of observed effect of the main OPEM trial. High baseline levels of intention to advise patients to attend retinopathy screening suggest that post-intentional and other factors may explain gaps in care. Process evaluations based on behavioral theory can provide replicable and generalizable insights to aid interpretation of randomized controlled trials of complex interventions to change health professional behavior.
Trial registration
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1748-5908-9-86) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4261878  PMID: 25098442
Process evaluation; Theory of planned behavior; Printed educational material; Healthcare professional behavior; Behavior change
2.  Improving physician hand hygiene compliance using behavioural theories: a study protocol 
Healthcare-associated infections affect 10% of patients in Canadian acute-care hospitals and are significant and preventable causes of morbidity and mortality among hospitalized patients. Hand hygiene is among the simplest and most effective preventive measures to reduce these infections. However, compliance with hand hygiene among healthcare workers, specifically among physicians, is consistently suboptimal. We aim to first identify the barriers and enablers to physician hand hygiene compliance, and then to develop and pilot a theory-based knowledge translation intervention to increase physicians’ compliance with best hand hygiene practice.
The study consists of three phases. In Phase 1, we will identify barriers and enablers to hand hygiene compliance by physicians. This will include: key informant interviews with physicians and residents using a structured interview guide, informed by the Theoretical Domains Framework; nonparticipant observation of physician/resident hand hygiene audit sessions; and focus groups with hand hygiene experts. In Phase 2, we will conduct intervention mapping to develop a theory-based knowledge translation intervention to improve physician hand hygiene compliance. Finally, in Phase 3, we will pilot the knowledge translation intervention in four patient care units.
In this study, we will use a behavioural theory approach to obtain a better understanding of the barriers and enablers to physician hand hygiene compliance. This will provide a comprehensive framework on which to develop knowledge translation interventions that may be more successful in improving hand hygiene practice. Upon completion of this study, we will refine the piloted knowledge translation intervention so it can be tested in a multi-site cluster randomized controlled trial.
PMCID: PMC3571966  PMID: 23379466
3.  Use of communities of practice in business and health care sectors: A systematic review 
Since being identified as a concept for understanding knowledge sharing, management, and creation, communities of practice (CoPs) have become increasingly popular within the health sector. The CoP concept has been used in the business sector for over 20 years, but the use of CoPs in the health sector has been limited in comparison.
First, we examined how CoPs were defined and used in these two sectors. Second, we evaluated the evidence of effectiveness on the health sector CoPs for improving the uptake of best practices and mentoring new practitioners.
We conducted a search of electronic databases in the business, health, and education sectors, and a hand search of key journals for primary studies on CoP groups. Our research synthesis for the first objective focused on three areas: the authors' interpretations of the CoP concept, the key characteristics of CoP groups, and the common elements of CoP groups. To examine the evidence on the effectiveness of CoPs in the health sector, we identified articles that evaluated CoPs for improving health professional performance, health care organizational performance, professional mentoring, and/or patient outcome; and used experimental, quasi-experimental, or observational designs.
The structure of CoP groups varied greatly, ranging from voluntary informal networks to work-supported formal education sessions, and from apprentice training to multidisciplinary, multi-site project teams. Four characteristics were identified from CoP groups: social interaction among members, knowledge sharing, knowledge creation, and identity building; however, these were not consistently present in all CoPs. There was also a lack of clarity in the responsibilities of CoP facilitators and how power dynamics should be handled within a CoP group. We did not find any paper in the health sector that met the eligibility criteria for the quantitative analysis, and so the effectiveness of CoP in this sector remained unclear.
There is no dominant trend in how the CoP concept is operationalized in the business and health sectors; hence, it is challenging to define the parameters of CoP groups. This may be one of the reasons for the lack of studies on the effectiveness of CoPs in the health sector. In order to improve the usefulness of the CoP concept in the development of groups and teams, further research will be needed to clarify the extent to which the four characteristics of CoPs are present in the mature and emergent groups, the expectations of facilitators and other participants, and the power relationship within CoPs.
PMCID: PMC2694761  PMID: 19445723
4.  Evolution of Wenger's concept of community of practice 
In the experience of health professionals, it appears that interacting with peers in the workplace fosters learning and information sharing. Informal groups and networks present good opportunities for information exchange. Communities of practice (CoPs), which have been described by Wenger and others as a type of informal learning organization, have received increasing attention in the health care sector; however, the lack of uniform operating definitions of CoPs has resulted in considerable variation in the structure and function of these groups, making it difficult to evaluate their effectiveness.
To critique the evolution of the CoP concept as based on the germinal work by Wenger and colleagues published between 1991 and 2002.
CoP was originally developed to provide a template for examining the learning that happens among practitioners in a social environment, but over the years there have been important divergences in the focus of the concept. Lave and Wenger's earliest publication (1991) centred on the interactions between novices and experts, and the process by which newcomers create a professional identity. In the 1998 book, the focus had shifted to personal growth and the trajectory of individuals' participation within a group (i.e., peripheral versus core participation). The focus then changed again in 2002 when CoP was applied as a managerial tool for improving an organization's competitiveness.
The different interpretations of CoP make it challenging to apply the concept or to take full advantage of the benefits that CoP groups may offer. The tension between satisfying individuals' needs for personal growth and empowerment versus an organization's bottom line is perhaps the most contentious of the issues that make CoPs difficult to cultivate. Since CoP is still an evolving concept, we recommend focusing on optimizing specific characteristics of the concept, such as support for members interacting with each other, sharing knowledge, and building a sense of belonging within networks/teams/groups. Interventions that facilitate relationship building among members and that promote knowledge exchange may be useful for optimizing the function of these groups.
PMCID: PMC2654669  PMID: 19250556
5.  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 
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.
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
PMCID: PMC2213685  PMID: 18039362

Results 1-5 (5)