Lessons learned about the effective operationalization of champions as an implementation strategy: results from a qualitative process evaluation of a pragmatic trial
BACKGROUND: Though the knowledge base on implementation strategies is growing, much remains unknown about how to most effectively operationalize these strategies in diverse contexts. For example, while evidence shows that champions can effectively support implementation efforts in some circumstances, little has been reported on how to operationalize this role optimally in different settings, or on the specific pathways through which champions enact change.
METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of data from a pragmatic trial comparing implementation strategies supporting the adoption of guideline-concordant cardioprotective prescribing in community health centers in the USA. Quantitative data came from the community health centers’ shared electronic health record; qualitative data sources included community health center staff interviews over 3 years. Using a convergent mixed-methods design, data were collected concurrently and merged for interpretation to identify factors associated with improved outcomes. Qualitative analysis was guided by the constant comparative method. As results from the quantitative and initial qualitative analyses indicated the essential role that champions played in promoting guideline-concordant prescribing, we conducted multiple immersion-crystallization cycles to better understand this finding.
RESULTS: Five community health centers demonstrated statistically significant increases in guideline-concordant cardioprotective prescribing. A combination of factors appeared key to their successful practice change: (1) A clinician champion who demonstrated a sustained commitment to implementation activities and exhibited engagement, influence, credibility, and capacity; and (2) organizational support for the intervention. In contrast, the seven community health centers that did not show improved outcomes lacked a champion with the necessary characteristics, and/or organizational support. Case studies illustrate the diverse, context-specific pathways that enabled or prevented study implementers from advancing practice change.
CONCLUSION: This analysis confirms the important role of champions in implementation efforts and offers insight into the context-specific mechanisms through which champions enact practice change. The results also highlight the potential impact of misaligned implementation support and key modifiable barriers and facilitators on implementation outcomes. Here, unexamined assumptions and a lack of evidence-based guidance on how best to identify and prepare effective champions led to implementation support that failed to address important barriers to intervention success.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov , NCT02325531 . Registered 15 December 2014.
Bunce, A. E., Gruß, I., Davis, J. V., Cowburn, S., Cohen, D., Oakley, J., & Gold, R. (2020). Lessons learned about the effective operationalization of champions as an implementation strategy: results from a qualitative process evaluation of a pragmatic trial. Implement Sci, 15(1), 87. doi:10.1186/s13012-020-01048-1