Background: Biomedical research constantly produces new findings but these are not routinely translated into health care practice. One way to address this problem is to develop effective interventions to translate research findings into practice. Currently a range of empirical interventions are available and systematic reviews of these have demonstrated that there is no single best intervention. This evidence base is difficult to use in routine settings because it cannot identify which intervention is most likely to be effective (or cost effective) in a particular situation. We need to establish a scientific rationale for interventions. As clinical practice is a form of human behaviour, theories of human behaviour that have proved useful in other similar settings may provide a basis for developing a scientific rationale for the choice of interventions to translate research findings into clinical practice. The objectives of the study are: to amplify and populate scientifically validated theories of behaviour with evidence from the experience of health professionals; to use this as a basis for developing predictive questionnaires using replicable methods; to identify which elements of the questionnaire (i.e., which theoretical constructs) predict clinical practice and distinguish between evidence compliant and non-compliant practice; and on the basis of these results, to identify variables (based on theoretical constructs) that might be prime targets for behaviour change interventions.
Methods: We will develop postal questionnaires measuring two motivational, three action and one stage theory to explore five behaviours with 800 general medical and 600 general dental practitioners. We will collect data on performance for each of the behaviours. The relationships between predictor variables (theoretical constructs) and outcome measures (data on performance) in each survey will be assessed using multiple regression analysis and structural equation modelling. In the final phase of the project, the findings from all surveys will be analysed simultaneously adopting a random effects approach to investigate whether the relationships between predictor variables and outcome measures are modified by behaviour, professional group or geographical location.