Background: There is an important gap between the implications of clinical research evidence and the routine clinical practice of healthcare professionals. Because individual decisions are often central to adoption of a clinical-related behaviour, more information about the cognitive mechanisms underlying behaviours is needed to improve behaviour change interventions targeting healthcare professionals. The aim of this study was to systematically review the published scientific literature about factors influencing health professionals' behaviours based on social cognitive theories. These theories refer to theories where individual cognitions/thoughts are viewed as processes intervening between observable stimuli and responses in real world situations.
Methods: We searched psycINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CIHNAL, Index to theses, PROQUEST dissertations and theses and Current Contents for articles published in English only. We included studies that aimed to predict healthcare professionals' intentions and behaviours with a clear specification of relying on a social cognitive theory. Information on percent of explained variance (R(2)) was used to compute the overall frequency-weighted mean R(2) to evaluate the efficacy of prediction in several contexts and according to different methodological aspects. The cognitive factors most consistently associated with prediction of healthcare professionals' intention and behaviours were documented.
Results: Seventy eight studies met the inclusion criteria. Among these studies, 72 provided information on the determinants of intention and 16 prospective studies provided information on the determinants of behaviour. The theory most often used as reference was the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) or its extension the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). An overall frequency-weighted mean R(2) of 0.31 was observed for the prediction of behaviour; 0.59 for the prediction of intention. A number of moderators influenced the efficacy of prediction; frequency-weighted mean R(2) varied from 0.001 to 0.58 for behaviour and 0.19 to 0.81 for intention.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that the TPB appears to be an appropriate theory to predict behaviour whereas other theories better capture the dynamic underlying intention. In addition, given the variations in efficacy of prediction, special care should be given to methodological issues, especially to better define the context of behaviour performance.