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Making psychological theory useful for implementing evidence based practice: a consensus approach

Abstract

Background: Evidence-based guidelines are often not implemented effectively with the result that best health outcomes are not achieved. This may be due to a lack of theoretical understanding of the processes involved in changing the behaviour of healthcare professionals. This paper reports the development of a consensus on a theoretical framework that could be used in implementation research. The objectives were to identify an agreed set of key theoretical constructs for use in (1) studying the implementation of evidence based practice and (2) developing strategies for effective implementation, and to communicate these constructs to an interdisciplinary audience.

Methods: Six phases of work were conducted to develop a consensus: (1) identifying theoretical constructs; (2) simplifying into construct domains; (3) evaluating the importance of the construct domains; (4) interdisciplinary evaluation; (5) validating the domain list; and (6) piloting interview questions. The contributors were a “psychological theory” group (n = 18), a “health services research” group (n = 13), and a “health psychology” group (n = 30).

Results: Twelve domains were identified to explain behaviour change: (1) knowledge, (2) skills, (3) social/professional role and identity, (4) beliefs about capabilities, (5) beliefs about consequences, (6) motivation and goals, (7) memory, attention and decision processes, (8) environmental context and resources, (9) social influences, (10) emotion regulation, (11) behavioural regulation, and (12) nature of the behaviour.

Conclusions: A set of behaviour change domains agreed by a consensus of experts is available for use in implementation research. Applications of this domain list will enhance understanding of the behaviour change processes inherent in implementation of evidence-based practice and will also test the validity of these proposed domains.

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