Tailored interventions to address identified determinants of practice

Tailored interventions to change professional practice are interventions planned following an investigation into the factors that explain current professional practice and any reasons for resisting new practice. These factors are referred to using various terms, including barriers, enablers, obstacles, and facilitators; in this review we use the term determinants of practice to include all such factors. The determinants may vary in different healthcare settings, groups of healthcare professionals, or clinical tasks. It is widely assumed that efforts to change professional practice have a lower likelihood of success unless these determinants are identified and taken into account.

In a previous review, we included 26 studies and we concluded that tailoring can change professional practice. However, more studies of tailoring have been published and therefore we have incorporated the new studies into an update of the review.

We have included 32 studies in the new review. The findings continue to indicate that tailored interventions can change professional practice, although they are not always effective and, when they are, the effect is small to moderate. There is insufficient evidence on the most effective approaches to tailoring, including how determinants should be identified, how decisions should be made on which determinants are most important to address, and how interventions should be selected to account for the important determinants. In addition, there is no evidence about the cost-effectiveness of tailored interventions compared to other interventions to change professional practice. Therefore, future research studies should seek to develop and evaluate more systematic approaches to tailoring.

Authors' conclusions: 

Despite the increase in the number of new studies identified, our overall finding is similar to that of the previous review. Tailored implementation can be effective, but the effect is variable and tends to be small to moderate. The number of studies remains small and more research is needed, including trials comparing tailored interventions to no or other interventions, but also studies to develop and investigate the components of tailoring (identification of the most important determinants, selecting interventions to address the determinants). Currently available studies have used different methods to identify determinants of practice and different approaches to selecting interventions to address the determinants. It is not yet clear how best to tailor interventions and therefore not clear what the effect of an optimally tailored intervention would be.

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Tailored intervention strategies are frequently recommended among approaches to the implementation of improvement in health professional performance. Attempts to change the behaviour of health professionals may be impeded by a variety of different barriers, obstacles, or factors (which we collectively refer to as determinants of practice). Change may be more likely if implementation strategies are specifically chosen to address these determinants.


To determine whether tailored intervention strategies are effective in improving professional practice and healthcare outcomes. We compared interventions tailored to address the identified determinants of practice with either no intervention or interventions not tailored to the determinants.

Search strategy: 

We conducted searches of The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PubMed, CINAHL, and the British Nursing Index to May 2014. We conducted a final search in December 2014 (in MEDLINE only) for more recently published trials. We conducted searches of the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) in March 2013. We also handsearched two journals.

Selection criteria: 

Cluster-randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of interventions tailored to address prospectively identified determinants of practice, which reported objectively measured professional practice or healthcare outcomes, and where at least one group received an intervention designed to address prospectively identified determinants of practice.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently assessed quality and extracted data. We undertook qualitative and quantitative analyses, the quantitative analysis including two elements: we carried out 1) meta-regression analyses to compare interventions tailored to address identified determinants with either no interventions or an intervention(s) not tailored to the determinants, and 2) heterogeneity analyses to investigate sources of differences in the effectiveness of interventions. These included the effects of: risk of bias, use of a theory when developing the intervention, whether adjustment was made for local factors, and number of domains addressed with the determinants identified.

Main results: 

We added nine studies to this review to bring the total number of included studies to 32 comparing an intervention tailored to address identified determinants of practice to no intervention or an intervention(s) not tailored to the determinants. The outcome was implementation of recommended practice, e.g. clinical practice guideline recommendations. Fifteen studies provided enough data to be included in the quantitative analysis. The pooled odds ratio was 1.56 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.27 to 1.93, P value < 0.001). The 17 studies not included in the meta-analysis had findings showing variable effectiveness consistent with the findings of the meta-regression.