Understanding Implementation of Complex Interventions in Primary Care Teams

J Am Board Fam Med. 2018 May-Jun;31(3):431-444. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2018.03.170273.


Background: The implementation of interventions to support practice change in primary care settings is complex. Pragmatic strategies, grounded in empiric data, are needed to navigate real-world challenges and unanticipated interactions with context that can impact implementation and outcomes.

Objective: This article uses the example of the "5As Team" randomized control trial to explore implementation strategies to promote knowledge transfer, capacity building, and practice integration, and their interaction within the context of an interdisciplinary primary care team.

Methods: We performed a qualitative evaluation of the implementation process of the 5As Team intervention study, a randomized control trial of a complex intervention in primary care. We conducted thematic analysis of field notes of intervention sessions, log books of the practice facilitation team members, and semistructured interviews with 29 interdisciplinary clinician participants. We used and further developed the Interactive Systems Framework for dissemination and implementation to interpret and structure findings.

Results: Three themes emerged that illuminate interactions between implementation processes, context, and outcomes: (1) facilitating team communication supported collective and individual sense-making and adoption of the innovation, (2) iterative evaluation of the implementation process and real-time feedback-driven adaptions of the intervention proved crucial for sustainable, context-appropriate intervention impact, (3) stakeholder engagement led to both knowledge exchange that contributes to local problem solving and to shaping a clinical context that is supportive to practice change.

Conclusion: Our findings contribute pragmatic strategies that can help practitioners and researchers to navigate interactions between context, intervention, and implementation factors to increase implementation success. We further developed an implementation framework that includes sustained engagement with stakeholders, facilitation of team sense-making, and dynamic evaluation and intervention design as integral parts of complex intervention implementation.

Trial registration: NCT01967797. 18 October 2013.

Keywords: Capacity Building; Communication; Implementation Science; Interdisciplinary Studies; Primary Health Care; Problem Solving.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Implementation Science*
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01967797