Designing theoretically-informed implementation interventions
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Clinical and health services research is continually producing new findings that may contribute to effective and efficient patient care. However, the transfer of research findings into practice is unpredictable and can be a slow and haphazard process. Ideally, the choice of implementation strategies would be based upon evidence from randomised controlled trials or systematic reviews of a given implementation strategy. Unfortunately, reviews of implementation strategies consistently report effectiveness some, but not all of the time; possible causes of this variation are seldom reported or measured by the investigators in the original studies. Thus, any attempts to extrapolate from study settings to the real world are hampered by a lack of understanding of the effects of key elements of individuals, interventions, and the settings in which they were trialled. The explicit use of theory offers a way of addressing these issues and has a number of advantages, such as providing: a generalisable framework within which to represent the dimensions that implementation studies address, a process by which to inform the development and delivery of interventions, a guide when evaluating, and a way to allow for an exploration of potential causal mechanisms. However, the use of theory in designing implementation interventions is methodologically challenging for a number of reasons, including choosing between theories and faithfully translating theoretical constructs into interventions. The explicit use of theory offers potential advantages in terms of facilitating a better understanding of the generalisability and replicability of implementation interventions. However, this is a relatively unexplored methodological area.
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