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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 Diabetes care through Examining, Advising, and prescribing (IDEA): protocol for a theory-based cluster randomised controlled trial of a multiple behaviour change intervention aimed at primary healthcare professionals 
New clinical research findings may require clinicians to change their behaviour to provide high-quality care to people with type 2 diabetes, likely requiring them to change multiple different clinical behaviours. The present study builds on findings from a UK-wide study of theory-based behavioural and organisational factors associated with prescribing, advising, and examining consistent with high-quality diabetes care.
To develop and evaluate the effectiveness and cost of an intervention to improve multiple behaviours in clinicians involved in delivering high-quality care for type 2 diabetes.
We will conduct a two-armed cluster randomised controlled trial in 44 general practices in the North East of England to evaluate a theory-based behaviour change intervention. We will target improvement in six underperformed clinical behaviours highlighted in quality standards for type 2 diabetes: prescribing for hypertension; prescribing for glycaemic control; providing physical activity advice; providing nutrition advice; providing on-going education; and ensuring that feet have been examined. The primary outcome will be the proportion of patients appropriately prescribed and examined (using anonymised computer records), and advised (using anonymous patient surveys) at 12 months. We will use behaviour change techniques targeting motivational, volitional, and impulsive factors that we have previously demonstrated to be predictive of multiple health professional behaviours involved in high-quality type 2 diabetes care. We will also investigate whether the intervention was delivered as designed (fidelity) by coding audiotaped workshops and interventionist delivery reports, and operated as hypothesised (process evaluation) by analysing responses to theory-based postal questionnaires. In addition, we will conduct post-trial qualitative interviews with practice teams to further inform the process evaluation, and a post-trial economic analysis to estimate the costs of the intervention and cost of service use.
Consistent with UK Medical Research Council guidance and building on previous development research, this pragmatic cluster randomised trial will evaluate the effectiveness of a theory-based complex intervention focusing on changing multiple clinical behaviours to improve quality of diabetes care.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC4049486  PMID: 24886606
3.  Correction: Diabetes Care Provision in UK Primary Care Practices 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):10.1371/annotation/1957ad3b-e192-4faa-bf4c-5dce22c5560e.
PMCID: PMC3414526
4.  Diabetes Care Provision in UK Primary Care Practices 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41562.
Although most people with Type 2 diabetes receive their diabetes care in primary care, only a limited amount is known about the quality of diabetes care in this setting. We investigated the provision and receipt of diabetes care delivered in UK primary care.
Postal surveys with all healthcare professionals and a random sample of 100 patients with Type 2 diabetes from 99 UK primary care practices.
326/361 (90.3%) doctors, 163/186 (87.6%) nurses and 3591 patients (41.8%) returned a questionnaire. Clinicians reported giving advice about lifestyle behaviours (e.g. 88% would routinely advise about calorie restriction; 99.6% about increasing exercise) more often than patients reported having received it (43% and 42%) and correlations between clinician and patient report were low. Patients’ reported levels of confidence about managing their diabetes were moderately high; a median (range) of 21% (3% to 39%) of patients reporting being not confident about various areas of diabetes self-management.
Primary care practices have organisational structures in place and are, as judged by routine quality indicators, delivering high quality care. There remain evidence-practice gaps in the care provided and in the self confidence that patients have for key aspects of self management and further research is needed to address these issues. Future research should use robust designs and appropriately designed studies to investigate how best to improve this situation.
PMCID: PMC3408463  PMID: 22859997
5.  Instrument development, data collection, and characteristics of practices, staff, and measures in the Improving Quality of Care in Diabetes (iQuaD) Study 
Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly prevalent chronic illness and an important cause of avoidable mortality. Patients are managed by the integrated activities of clinical and non-clinical members of primary care teams. This study aimed to: investigate theoretically-based organisational, team, and individual factors determining the multiple behaviours needed to manage diabetes; and identify multilevel determinants of different diabetes management behaviours and potential interventions to improve them. This paper describes the instrument development, study recruitment, characteristics of the study participating practices and their constituent healthcare professionals and administrative staff and reports descriptive analyses of the data collected.
The study was a predictive study over a 12-month period. Practices (N = 99) were recruited from within the UK Medical Research Council General Practice Research Framework. We identified six behaviours chosen to cover a range of clinical activities (prescribing, non-prescribing), reflect decisions that were not necessarily straightforward (controlling blood pressure that was above target despite other drug treatment), and reflect recommended best practice as described by national guidelines. Practice attributes and a wide range of individually reported measures were assessed at baseline; measures of clinical outcome were collected over the ensuing 12 months, and a number of proxy measures of behaviour were collected at baseline and at 12 months. Data were collected by telephone interview, postal questionnaire (organisational and clinical) to practice staff, postal questionnaire to patients, and by computer data extraction query.
All 99 practices completed a telephone interview and responded to baseline questionnaires. The organisational questionnaire was completed by 931/1236 (75.3%) administrative staff, 423/529 (80.0%) primary care doctors, and 255/314 (81.2%) nurses. Clinical questionnaires were completed by 326/361 (90.3%) primary care doctors and 163/186 (87.6%) nurses. At a practice level, we achieved response rates of 100% from clinicians in 40 practices and > 80% from clinicians in 67 practices. All measures had satisfactory internal consistency (alpha coefficient range from 0.61 to 0.97; Pearson correlation coefficient (two item measures) 0.32 to 0.81); scores were generally consistent with good practice. Measures of behaviour showed relatively high rates of performance of the six behaviours, but with considerable variability within and across the behaviours and measures.
We have assembled an unparalleled data set from clinicians reporting on their cognitions in relation to the performance of six clinical behaviours involved in the management of people with one chronic disease (diabetes mellitus), using a range of organisational and individual level measures as well as information on the structure of the practice teams and across a large number of UK primary care practices. We would welcome approaches from other researchers to collaborate on the analysis of this data.
PMCID: PMC3130687  PMID: 21658211
6.  Testing a TheoRY-inspired MEssage ('TRY-ME'): a sub-trial within the Ontario Printed Educational Message (OPEM) trial 
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.
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
PMCID: PMC2216024  PMID: 18039363
7.  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

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