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      Demystifying theory and its use in improvement

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          Abstract

          The role and value of theory in improvement work in healthcare has been seriously underrecognised. We join others in proposing that more informed use of theory can strengthen improvement programmes and facilitate the evaluation of their effectiveness. Many professionals, including improvement practitioners, are unfortunately mystified—and alienated—by theory, which discourages them from using it in their work. In an effort to demystify theory we make the point in this paper that, far from being discretionary or superfluous, theory (‘reason-giving’), both informal and formal, is intimately woven into virtually all human endeavour. We explore the special characteristics of grand, mid-range and programme theory; consider the consequences of misusing theory or failing to use it; review the process of developing and applying programme theory; examine some emerging criteria of ‘good’ theory; and emphasise the value, as well as the challenge, of combining informal experience-based theory with formal, publicly developed theory. We conclude that although informal theory is always at work in improvement, practitioners are often not aware of it or do not make it explicit. The germane issue for improvement practitioners, therefore, is not whether they use theory but whether they make explicit the particular theory or theories, informal and formal, they actually use.

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          Most cited references 41

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          Fostering implementation of health services research findings into practice: a consolidated framework for advancing implementation science

          Background Many interventions found to be effective in health services research studies fail to translate into meaningful patient care outcomes across multiple contexts. Health services researchers recognize the need to evaluate not only summative outcomes but also formative outcomes to assess the extent to which implementation is effective in a specific setting, prolongs sustainability, and promotes dissemination into other settings. Many implementation theories have been published to help promote effective implementation. However, they overlap considerably in the constructs included in individual theories, and a comparison of theories reveals that each is missing important constructs included in other theories. In addition, terminology and definitions are not consistent across theories. We describe the Consolidated Framework For Implementation Research (CFIR) that offers an overarching typology to promote implementation theory development and verification about what works where and why across multiple contexts. Methods We used a snowball sampling approach to identify published theories that were evaluated to identify constructs based on strength of conceptual or empirical support for influence on implementation, consistency in definitions, alignment with our own findings, and potential for measurement. We combined constructs across published theories that had different labels but were redundant or overlapping in definition, and we parsed apart constructs that conflated underlying concepts. Results The CFIR is composed of five major domains: intervention characteristics, outer setting, inner setting, characteristics of the individuals involved, and the process of implementation. Eight constructs were identified related to the intervention (e.g., evidence strength and quality), four constructs were identified related to outer setting (e.g., patient needs and resources), 12 constructs were identified related to inner setting (e.g., culture, leadership engagement), five constructs were identified related to individual characteristics, and eight constructs were identified related to process (e.g., plan, evaluate, and reflect). We present explicit definitions for each construct. Conclusion The CFIR provides a pragmatic structure for approaching complex, interacting, multi-level, and transient states of constructs in the real world by embracing, consolidating, and unifying key constructs from published implementation theories. It can be used to guide formative evaluations and build the implementation knowledge base across multiple studies and settings.
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            The behavior change technique taxonomy (v1) of 93 hierarchically clustered techniques: building an international consensus for the reporting of behavior change interventions.

            CONSORT guidelines call for precise reporting of behavior change interventions: we need rigorous methods of characterizing active content of interventions with precision and specificity. The objective of this study is to develop an extensive, consensually agreed hierarchically structured taxonomy of techniques [behavior change techniques (BCTs)] used in behavior change interventions. In a Delphi-type exercise, 14 experts rated labels and definitions of 124 BCTs from six published classification systems. Another 18 experts grouped BCTs according to similarity of active ingredients in an open-sort task. Inter-rater agreement amongst six researchers coding 85 intervention descriptions by BCTs was assessed. This resulted in 93 BCTs clustered into 16 groups. Of the 26 BCTs occurring at least five times, 23 had adjusted kappas of 0.60 or above. "BCT taxonomy v1," an extensive taxonomy of 93 consensually agreed, distinct BCTs, offers a step change as a method for specifying interventions, but we anticipate further development and evaluation based on international, interdisciplinary consensus.
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              From best evidence to best practice: effective implementation of change in patients' care.

              Major difficulties arise when introducing evidence and clinical guidelines into routine daily practice. Data show that many patients do not receive appropriate care, or receive unnecessary or harmful care. Many approaches claim to offer solutions to this problem; which ones are as yet the most effective and efficient is unclear. We aim to provide an overview of present knowledge about initiatives to changing medical practice. Substantial evidence suggests that to change behaviour is possible, but this change generally requires comprehensive approaches at different levels (doctor, team practice, hospital, wider environment), tailored to specific settings and target groups. Plans for change should be based on characteristics of the evidence or guideline itself and barriers and facilitators to change. In general, evidence shows that none of the approaches for transferring evidence to practice is superior to all changes in all situations.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMJ Qual Saf
                BMJ Qual Saf
                qhc
                bmjqs
                BMJ Quality & Safety
                BMJ Publishing Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                2044-5415
                2044-5423
                March 2015
                23 January 2015
                : 24
                : 3
                : 228-238
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth , Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
                [2 ]University of Leicester , Leicester, UK
                [3 ]Robert Wood Johnson Foundation , Princeton, New Jersey, USA
                [4 ]University College London , London, UK
                Author notes
                [Correspondence to ] Dr Frank Davidoff, 143 Garden Street, Wethersfield, CT 06109, USA; fdavidoff@ 123456cox.net
                bmjqs-2014-003627
                10.1136/bmjqs-2014-003627
                4345989
                25616279
                Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions

                This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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                Research and Reporting Methodology
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