Background: The case has been made for more and better theory-informed process evaluations within trials in an effort to facilitate insightful understandings of how interventions work. In this paper, we provide an explanation of implementation processes from one of the first national implementation research randomized controlled trials with embedded process evaluation conducted within acute care, and a proposed extension to the Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (PARIHS) framework.
Methods: The PARIHS framework was prospectively applied to guide decisions about intervention design, data collection, and analysis processes in a trial focussed on reducing peri-operative fasting times. In order to capture a holistic picture of implementation processes, the same data were collected across 19 participating hospitals irrespective of allocation to intervention. This paper reports on findings from data collected from a purposive sample of 151 staff and patients pre- and post-intervention. Data were analysed using content analysis within, and then across data sets.
Results: A robust and uncontested evidence base was a necessary, but not sufficient condition for practice change, in that individual staff and patient responses such as caution influenced decision making. The implementation context was challenging, in which individuals and teams were bounded by professional issues, communication challenges, power and a lack of clarity for the authority and responsibility for practice change. Progress was made in sites where processes were aligned with existing initiatives. Additionally, facilitators reported engaging in many intervention implementation activities, some of which result in practice changes, but not significant improvements to outcomes.
Conclusions: This study provided an opportunity for reflection on the comprehensiveness of the PARIHS framework. Consistent with the underlying tenant of PARIHS, a multi-faceted and dynamic story of implementation was evident. However, the prominent role that individuals played as part of the interaction between evidence and context is not currently explicit within the framework. We propose that successful implementation of evidence into practice is a planned facilitated process involving an interplay between individuals, evidence, and context to promote evidence-informed practice. This proposal will enhance the potential of the PARIHS framework for explanation, and ensure theoretical development both informs and responds to the evidence base for implementation.