Background: Experts recommend that alcohol-related care be integrated into primary care (PC) to improve prevention and treatment of unhealthy alcohol use. However, few healthcare systems offer such integrated care. To address this gap, implementation researchers and clinical leaders at Kaiser Permanente Washington (KPWA) partnered to design a high-quality program of evidence-based care for unhealthy alcohol use: the Sustained Patient-centered Alcohol-related Care (SPARC) program. SPARC implements systems of clinical care designed to increase both prevention and treatment of unhealthy alcohol use. This clinical care for unhealthy alcohol use was implemented using three strategies: electronic health record (EHR) decision support, performance monitoring and feedback, and front-line support from external practice coaches with expertise in alcohol-related care ("SPARC implementation intervention" hereafter). The purpose of this report is to describe the protocol of the SPARC trial, a pragmatic, cluster-randomized, stepped-wedge implementation trial to evaluate whether the SPARC implementation intervention increased alcohol screening and brief alcohol counseling (so-called brief interventions), and diagnosis and treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) in 22 KPWA PC clinics.
Methods/design: The SPARC trial sample includes all adult patients who had a visit to any of the 22 primary care sites in the trial during the study period (January 1, 2015-July 31, 2018). The 22 sites were randomized to implement the SPARC program on different dates (in seven waves, approximately every 4 months). Primary outcomes are the proportion of patients with PC visits who (1) screen positive for unhealthy alcohol use and have documented brief interventions and (2) have a newly recognized AUD and subsequently initiate and engage in alcohol-related care. Main analyses compare the rates of these primary outcomes in the pre- and post-implementation periods, following recommended approaches for analyzing stepped-wedge trials. Qualitative analyses assess barriers and facilitators to implementation and required adaptations of implementation strategies.
Discussion: The SPARC trial is the first study to our knowledge to use an experimental design to test whether practice coaches with expertise in alcohol-related care, along with EHR clinical decision support and performance monitoring and feedback to sites, increase both preventive care-alcohol screening and brief intervention-as well as diagnosis and treatment of AUDs.
Trial registration: The trial is registered at ClinicalTrials.Gov: NCT02675777. Registered February 5, 2016, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02675777 .
Keywords: Alcohol drinking; Alcohol use disorders; Prevention; Primary care, implementation, stepped-wedge, pragmatic trial.