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1.  A pragmatic cluster randomised controlled trial of a Diabetes REcall And Management system: the DREAM trial 
Following the introduction of a computerised diabetes register in part of the northeast of England, care initially improved but then plateaued. We therefore enhanced the existing diabetes register to address these problems. The aim of the trial was to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of an area wide 'extended,' computerised diabetes register incorporating a full structured recall and management system, including individualised patient management prompts to primary care clinicians based on locally-adapted, evidence-based guidelines.
The study design was a pragmatic, cluster randomised controlled trial, with the general practice as the unit of randomisation. Set in 58 general practices in three Primary Care Trusts in the northeast of England, the study outcomes were the clinical process and outcome variables held on the diabetes register, patient-reported outcomes, and service and patient costs. The effect of the intervention was estimated using generalised linear models with an appropriate error structure. To allow for the clustering of patients within practices, population averaged models were estimated using generalized estimating equations.
Patients in intervention practices were more likely to have at least one diabetes appointment recorded (OR 2.00, 95% CI 1.02, 3.91), to have a recording of a foot check (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.09, 3.21), have a recording of receiving dietary advice (OR 2.77, 95% CI 1.22, 6.29), and have a recording of blood pressure (BP) (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.06, 4.36). There was no difference in mean HbA1c or BP levels, but the mean cholesterol level in patients from intervention practices was significantly lower (-0.15 mmol/l, 95% CI -0.25, -0.06). There were no differences in patient-reported outcomes or in patient-reported use of drugs, or uptake of health services. The average cost per patient was not significantly different between the intervention and control groups. Costs incurred in administering the system at the register and in general practice were in addition to these.
This study has shown benefits from an area-wide, computerised diabetes register incorporating a full structured recall and individualised patient management system. However, these benefits were achieved at a cost. In future, these costs may fall as electronic data exchange becomes a reliable reality.
Trial registration: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) Register, ISRCTN32042030.
PMCID: PMC1804280  PMID: 17306017
2.  Is the involvement of opinion leaders in the implementation of research findings a feasible strategy? 
There is only limited empirical evidence about the effectiveness of opinion leaders as health care change agents.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC1436013  PMID: 16722572

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