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Open Access Methodology

Specifying content and mechanisms of change in interventions to change professionals’ practice: an illustration from the Good Goals study in occupational therapy

Niina Kolehmainen12* and Jill J Francis12

Author Affiliations

1 Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

2 Aberdeen Health Psychology Group, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

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Implementation Science 2012, 7:100  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-100

Published: 18 October 2012

Abstract

Background

It is widely agreed that interventions to change professionals’ practice need to be clearly specified. This involves (1) selecting and defining the intervention techniques, (2) operationalising the techniques and deciding their delivery, and (3) formulating hypotheses about the mechanisms through which the techniques are thought to result in change. Descriptions of methods to achieve these objectives are limited. This paper reports methods and illustrates outputs from a study to meet these objectives, specifically from the Good Goals study to improve occupational therapists’ caseload management practice.

Methods

(1) Behaviour change techniques were identified and selected from an existing matrix that maps techniques to determinants. An existing coding manual was used to define the techniques. (2) A team of occupational therapists generated context-relevant, acceptable modes of delivery for the techniques; these data were compared and contrasted with previously collected data, literature on caseload management, and the aims of the intervention. (3) Hypotheses about the mechanisms of change were formulated by drawing on the matrix and on theories of behaviour change.

Results

(1) Eight behaviour change techniques were selected: goal specified; self-monitoring; contract; graded tasks; increasing skills (problem solving, decision making, goal setting); coping skills; rehearsal of relevant skills; social processes of encouragement, support, and pressure; demonstration by others; and feedback. (2) A range of modes of delivery were generated (e.g., graded tasks’ consisting of series of clinical cases and situations that become increasingly difficult). Conditions for acceptable delivery were identified (e.g., ‘self-monitoring’ was acceptable only if delivered at team level). The modes of delivery were specified as face-to-face training, task sheets, group tasks, DVDs, and team-based weekly meetings. (3) The eight techniques were hypothesized to target caseload management practice through eleven mediating variables. Three domains were hypothesized to be most likely to change: beliefs about capabilities, motivation and goals, and behavioural regulation.

Conclusions

The project provides an exemplar of a systematic and reportable development of a quality-improvement intervention, with its methods likely to be applicable to other projects. A subsequent study of the intervention has provided early indication that use of systematic methods to specify interventions may help to maximize acceptability and effectiveness.

Keywords:
Complex interventions; Developing interventions; Behaviour change; Professionals’ practice; Goal setting; Occupational therapy