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1.  A multidimensional approach to assessing intervention fidelity in a process evaluation of audit and feedback interventions to reduce unnecessary blood transfusions: a study protocol 
In England, NHS Blood and Transplant conducts national audits of transfusion and provides feedback to hospitals to promote evidence-based practice. Audits demonstrate 20% of transfusions fall outside guidelines. The AFFINITIE programme (Development & Evaluation of Audit and Feedback INterventions to Increase evidence-based Transfusion practIcE) involves two linked, 2×2 factorial, cluster-randomised trials, each evaluating two theoretically-enhanced audit and feedback interventions to reduce unnecessary blood transfusions in UK hospitals. The first intervention concerns the content/format of feedback reports. The second aims to support hospital transfusion staff to plan their response to feedback and includes a web-based toolkit and telephone support. Interpretation of trials is enhanced by comprehensively assessing intervention fidelity. However, reviews demonstrate fidelity evaluations are often limited, typically only assessing whether interventions were delivered as intended. This protocol presents methods for assessing fidelity across five dimensions proposed by the Behaviour Change Consortium fidelity framework, including intervention designer-, provider- and recipient-levels.
(1) Design: Intervention content will be specified in intervention manuals in terms of component behaviour change techniques (BCTs). Treatment differentiation will be examined by comparing BCTs across intervention/standard practice, noting the proportion of unique/convergent BCTs. (2) Training: draft feedback reports and audio-recorded role-play telephone support scenarios will be content analysed to assess intervention providers’ competence to deliver manual-specified BCTs. (3) Delivery: intervention materials (feedback reports, toolkit) and audio-recorded telephone support session transcripts will be content analysed to assess actual delivery of manual-specified BCTs during the intervention period. (4) Receipt and (5) enactment: questionnaires, semi-structured interviews based on the Theoretical Domains Framework, and objective web-analytics data (report downloads, toolkit usage patterns) will be analysed to assess hospital transfusion staff exposure to, understanding and enactment of the interventions, and to identify contextual barriers/enablers to implementation. Associations between observed fidelity and trial outcomes (% unnecessary transfusions) will be examined using mediation analyses.
If the interventions have acceptable fidelity, then results of the AFFINITIE trials can be attributed to effectiveness, or lack of effectiveness, of the interventions. Hence, this comprehensive assessment of fidelity will be used to interpret trial findings. These methods may inform fidelity assessments in future trials.
Trial registration
ISRCTN 15490813. Registered 11/03/2015
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-016-0528-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5153878  PMID: 27955683
Process evaluation; Fidelity; Audit and feedback; Research protocol; Blood transfusion; Implementation; Randomised controlled trial
2.  Identifying the domains of context important to implementation science: a study protocol 
There is growing recognition that “context” can and does modify the effects of implementation interventions aimed at increasing healthcare professionals’ use of research evidence in clinical practice. However, conceptual clarity about what exactly comprises “context” is lacking. The purpose of this research program is to develop, refine, and validate a framework that identifies the key domains of context (and their features) that can facilitate or hinder (1) healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice and (2) the effectiveness of implementation interventions.
A multi-phased investigation of context using mixed methods will be conducted. The first phase is a concept analysis of context using the Walker and Avant method to distinguish between the defining and irrelevant attributes of context. This phase will result in a preliminary framework for context that identifies its important domains and their features according to the published literature. The second phase is a secondary analysis of qualitative data from 13 studies of interviews with 312 healthcare professionals on the perceived barriers and enablers to their application of research evidence in clinical practice. These data will be analyzed inductively using constant comparative analysis. For the third phase, we will conduct semi-structured interviews with key health system stakeholders and change agents to elicit their knowledge and beliefs about the contextual features that influence the effectiveness of implementation interventions and healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice. Results from all three phases will be synthesized using a triangulation protocol to refine the context framework drawn from the concept analysis. The framework will then be assessed for content validity using an iterative Delphi approach with international experts (researchers and health system stakeholders/change agents).
This research program will result in a framework that identifies the domains of context and their features that can facilitate or hinder: (1) healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice and (2) the effectiveness of implementation interventions. The framework will increase the conceptual clarity of the term “context” for advancing implementation science, improving healthcare professionals’ use of evidence in clinical practice, and providing greater understanding of what interventions are likely to be effective in which contexts.
PMCID: PMC4584460  PMID: 26416206
3.  Evaluation of the fidelity of an interactive face-to-face educational intervention to improve general practitioner management of back pain 
BMJ Open  2015;5(7):e007886.
Implementation intervention effects can only be fully realised and understood if they are faithfully delivered. However the evaluation of implementation intervention fidelity is not commonly undertaken. The IMPLEMENT intervention was designed to improve the management of low back pain by general medical practitioners. It consisted of a two-session interactive workshop, including didactic presentations and small group discussions by trained facilitators. This study aimed to evaluate the fidelity of the IMPLEMENT intervention by assessing: (1) observed facilitator adherence to planned behaviour change techniques (BCTs); (2) comparison of observed and self-reported adherence to planned BCTs and (3) variation across different facilitators and different BCTs.
The study compared planned and actual, and observed versus self-assessed delivery of BCTs during the IMPLEMENT workshops.
Workshop sessions were audiorecorded and transcribed verbatim. Observed adherence of facilitators to the planned intervention was assessed by analysing the workshop transcripts in terms of BCTs delivered. Self-reported adherence was measured using a checklist completed at the end of each workshop session and was compared with the ‘gold standard’ of observed adherence using sensitivity and specificity analyses.
The overall observed adherence to planned BCTs was 79%, representing moderate-to-high intervention fidelity. There was no significant difference in adherence to BCTs between the facilitators. Sensitivity of self-reported adherence was 95% (95% CI 88 to 98) and specificity was 30% (95% CI 11 to 60).
The findings suggest that the IMPLEMENT intervention was delivered with high levels of adherence to the planned intervention protocol.
Trial registration number
The IMPLEMENT trial was registered in the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ACTRN012606000098538 (
PMCID: PMC4499726  PMID: 26155819
4.  Application of theory to enhance audit and feedback interventions to increase the uptake of evidence-based transfusion practice: an intervention development protocol 
Audits of blood transfusion demonstrate around 20% transfusions are outside national recommendations and guidelines. Audit and feedback is a widely used quality improvement intervention but effects on clinical practice are variable, suggesting potential for enhancement. Behavioural theory, theoretical frameworks of behaviour change and behaviour change techniques provide systematic processes to enhance intervention. This study is part of a larger programme of work to promote the uptake of evidence-based transfusion practice.
The objectives of this study are to design two theoretically enhanced audit and feedback interventions; one focused on content and one on delivery, and investigate the feasibility and acceptability.
Study A (Content): A coding framework based on current evidence regarding audit and feedback, and behaviour change theory and frameworks will be developed and applied as part of a structured content analysis to specify the key components of existing feedback documents. Prototype feedback documents with enhanced content and also a protocol, describing principles for enhancing feedback content, will be developed. Study B (Delivery): Individual semi-structured interviews with healthcare professionals and observations of team meetings in four hospitals will be used to specify, and identify views about, current audit and feedback practice. Interviews will be based on a topic guide developed using the Theoretical Domains Framework and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. Analysis of transcripts based on these frameworks will form the evidence base for developing a protocol describing an enhanced intervention that focuses on feedback delivery. Study C (Feasibility and Acceptability): Enhanced interventions will be piloted in four hospitals. Semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and observations will be used to assess feasibility and acceptability.
This intervention development work reflects the UK Medical Research Council’s guidance on development of complex interventions, which emphasises the importance of a robust theoretical basis for intervention design and recommends systematic assessment of feasibility and acceptability prior to taking interventions to evaluation in a full-scale randomised study. The work-up includes specification of current practice so that, in the trials to be conducted later in this programme, there will be a clear distinction between the control (usual practice) conditions and the interventions to be evaluated.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0092-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4243714  PMID: 25070404
Audit and feedback; Blood transfusion; Implementation; Health services research; Study protocol; Health professional behaviour change
5.  No more ‘business as usual’ with audit and feedback interventions: towards an agenda for a reinvigorated intervention 
Audit and feedback interventions in healthcare have been found to be effective, but there has been little progress with respect to understanding their mechanisms of action or identifying their key ‘active ingredients.’
Given the increasing use of audit and feedback to improve quality of care, it is imperative to focus further research on understanding how and when it works best. In this paper, we argue that continuing the ‘business as usual’ approach to evaluating two-arm trials of audit and feedback interventions against usual care for common problems and settings is unlikely to contribute new generalizable findings. Future audit and feedback trials should incorporate evidence- and theory-based best practices, and address known gaps in the literature.
We offer an agenda for high-priority research topics for implementation researchers that focuses on reviewing best practices for designing audit and feedback interventions to optimize effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC3896824  PMID: 24438584
Audit and feedback; Synthesis; Best practice; Implementation; Optimization
6.  Evidence-based care of older people with suspected cognitive impairment in general practice: protocol for the IRIS cluster randomised trial 
Dementia is a common and complex condition. Evidence-based guidelines for the management of people with dementia in general practice exist; however, detection, diagnosis and disclosure of dementia have been identified as potential evidence-practice gaps. Interventions to implement guidelines into practice have had varying success. The use of theory in designing implementation interventions has been limited, but is advocated because of its potential to yield more effective interventions and aid understanding of factors modifying the magnitude of intervention effects across trials. This protocol describes methods of a randomised trial that tests a theory-informed implementation intervention that, if effective, may provide benefits for patients with dementia and their carers.
This trial aims to estimate the effectiveness of a theory-informed intervention to increase GPs’ (in Victoria, Australia) adherence to a clinical guideline for the detection, diagnosis, and management of dementia in general practice, compared with providing GPs with a printed copy of the guideline. Primary objectives include testing if the intervention is effective in increasing the percentage of patients with suspected cognitive impairment who receive care consistent with two key guideline recommendations: receipt of a i) formal cognitive assessment, and ii) depression assessment using a validated scale (primary outcomes for the trial).
The design is a parallel cluster randomised trial, with clusters being general practices. We aim to recruit 60 practices per group. Practices will be randomised to the intervention and control groups using restricted randomisation. Patients meeting the inclusion criteria, and GPs’ detection and diagnosis behaviours directed toward these patients, will be identified and measured via an electronic search of the medical records nine months after the start of the intervention. Practitioners in the control group will receive a printed copy of the guideline. In addition to receipt of the printed guideline, practitioners in the intervention group will be invited to participate in an interactive, opinion leader-led, educational face-to-face workshop. The theory-informed intervention aims to address identified barriers to and enablers of implementation of recommendations. Researchers responsible for identifying the cohort of patients with suspected cognitive impairment, and their detection and diagnosis outcomes, will be blind to group allocation.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611001032943 (date registered 28 September, 2011).
PMCID: PMC3765181  PMID: 23958469
7.  Evaluation of a Theory-Informed Implementation Intervention for the Management of Acute Low Back Pain in General Medical Practice: The IMPLEMENT Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65471.
This cluster randomised trial evaluated an intervention to decrease x-ray referrals and increase giving advice to stay active for people with acute low back pain (LBP) in general practice.
General practices were randomised to either access to a guideline for acute LBP (control) or facilitated interactive workshops (intervention). We measured behavioural predictors (e.g. knowledge, attitudes and intentions) and fear avoidance beliefs. We were unable to recruit sufficient patients to measure our original primary outcomes so we introduced other outcomes measured at the general practitioner (GP) level: behavioural simulation (clinical decision about vignettes) and rates of x-ray and CT-scan (medical administrative data). All those not involved in the delivery of the intervention were blinded to allocation.
47 practices (53 GPs) were randomised to the control and 45 practices (59 GPs) to the intervention. The number of GPs available for analysis at 12 months varied by outcome due to missing confounder information; a minimum of 38 GPs were available from the intervention group, and a minimum of 40 GPs from the control group. For the behavioural constructs, although effect estimates were small, the intervention group GPs had greater intention of practising consistent with the guideline for the clinical behaviour of x-ray referral. For behavioural simulation, intervention group GPs were more likely to adhere to guideline recommendations about x-ray (OR 1.76, 95%CI 1.01, 3.05) and more likely to give advice to stay active (OR 4.49, 95%CI 1.90 to 10.60). Imaging referral was not statistically significantly different between groups and the potential importance of effects was unclear; rate ratio 0.87 (95%CI 0.68, 1.10) for x-ray or CT-scan.
The intervention led to small changes in GP intention to practice in a manner that is consistent with an evidence-based guideline, but it did not result in statistically significant changes in actual behaviour.
Trial Registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000098538
PMCID: PMC3681882  PMID: 23785427
8.  Developing theory-informed behaviour change interventions to implement evidence into practice: a systematic approach using the Theoretical Domains Framework 
There is little systematic operational guidance about how best to develop complex interventions to reduce the gap between practice and evidence. This article is one in a Series of articles documenting the development and use of the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to advance the science of implementation research.
The intervention was developed considering three main components: theory, evidence, and practical issues. We used a four-step approach, consisting of guiding questions, to direct the choice of the most appropriate components of an implementation intervention: Who needs to do what, differently? Using a theoretical framework, which barriers and enablers need to be addressed? Which intervention components (behaviour change techniques and mode(s) of delivery) could overcome the modifiable barriers and enhance the enablers? And how can behaviour change be measured and understood?
A complex implementation intervention was designed that aimed to improve acute low back pain management in primary care. We used the TDF to identify the barriers and enablers to the uptake of evidence into practice and to guide the choice of intervention components. These components were then combined into a cohesive intervention. The intervention was delivered via two facilitated interactive small group workshops. We also produced a DVD to distribute to all participants in the intervention group. We chose outcome measures in order to assess the mediating mechanisms of behaviour change.
We have illustrated a four-step systematic method for developing an intervention designed to change clinical practice based on a theoretical framework. The method of development provides a systematic framework that could be used by others developing complex implementation interventions. While this framework should be iteratively adjusted and refined to suit other contexts and settings, we believe that the four-step process should be maintained as the primary framework to guide researchers through a comprehensive intervention development process.
PMCID: PMC3443064  PMID: 22531013
9.  Improving the care for people with acute low-back pain by allied health professionals (the ALIGN trial): A cluster randomised trial protocol 
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.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12609001022257 (date registered 25th November 2009)
PMCID: PMC2994785  PMID: 21067614
10.  The translation research in a dental setting (TRiaDS) programme protocol 
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2920875  PMID: 20646275
11.  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.
PMCID: PMC2717906  PMID: 19607700
12.  IMPLEmenting a clinical practice guideline for acute low back pain evidence-based manageMENT in general practice (IMPLEMENT): Cluster randomised controlled trial study protocol 
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.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN012606000098538 (date registered 14/03/2006).
PMCID: PMC2291069  PMID: 18294375

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