Background: In recent years, a trend in the use of tailor-made approaches and pragmatic trial methodology for evaluating effectiveness has been visible in programs ranging from large-scale national health prevention campaigns to community-based initiatives. Qualitative research is used more often for tailoring interventions towards communities and/or local care practices. This article systematically reviews the contribution of qualitative research in developing tailor-made community-based interventions in primary care evaluated by means of the pragmatic trial methodology.
Methods: A systematic search of Pubmed/Medline and Embase revealed 33 articles. Using a literature mapping process, the articles were arranged according to the development phases identified in the MRC framework for the development of complex interventions to improve health.
Results: The review showed qualitative research is mainly used to provide insight into the contextual circumstances of the interventions' implementation, delivery and evaluation. To a lesser extent, qualitative research findings are used for tailoring and improving the design of the interventions for a better fit with daily primary care practice. Moreover, most qualitative findings are used for tailoring the interventions' contextual circumstances so that the interventions are performed in practice as planned, rather than adjusted to local circumstances.
Conclusions: Pragmatic trials seem to be oxymoronic. Although the pragmatic trial methodology establishes the effectiveness of interventions under natural, non-experimental conditions, no pragmatic fit is allowed. Qualitative research's contribution to the development of tailor-made community-based interventions lies in providing ongoing evaluations of the dilemmas faced in pragmatic trials and allowing for the development of true tailor-made interventions.