Applying theory-driven approaches to understanding and modifying clinicians' behavior: what do we know?

Psychiatr Serv. 2007 Mar;58(3):342-8. doi: 10.1176/ps.2007.58.3.342.


Objective: Despite major recent research advances, large gaps exist between accepted mental health knowledge and clinicians' real-world practices. Although hundreds of studies have successfully utilized basic behavioral science theories to understand, predict, and change patients' health behaviors, the extent to which these theories-most notably the theory of reasoned action (TRA) and its extension, the theory of planned behavior (TPB)-have been applied to understand and change clinician behavior is unclear. This article reviews the application of theory-driven approaches to understanding and changing clinician behaviors.

Methods: MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases were searched, along with bibliographies, textbooks on health behavior or public health, and references from experts, to find article titles that describe theory-driven approaches (TRA or TPB) to understanding and modifying health professionals' behavior.

Results: A total of 19 articles that detailed 20 studies described the use of TRA or TPB and clinicians' behavior. Eight articles describe the use of TRA or TPB with physicians, four relate to nurses, three relate to pharmacists, and two relate to health workers. Only two articles applied TRA or TPB to mental health clinicians. The body of work shows that different constructs of TRA or TPB predict intentions and behavior among different groups of clinicians and for different behaviors and guidelines.

Conclusions: The number of studies on this topic is extremely limited, but they offer a rationale and a direction for future research as well as a theoretical basis for increasing the specificity and efficiency of clinician-targeted interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Personality
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment
  • Social Perception*