A theory-informed, rapid cycle approach to identifying and adapting strategies to promote sustainability: optimizing depression treatment in primary care clinics seeking to sustain collaborative care (The Transform DepCare Study)

Implement Sci Commun. 2023 Jan 25;4(1):10. doi: 10.1186/s43058-022-00383-2.


Background: Few real-world examples exist of how best to select and adapt implementation strategies that promote sustainability. We used a collaborative care (CC) use case to describe a novel, theory-informed, stakeholder engaged process for operationalizing strategies for sustainability using a behavioral lens.

Methods: Informed by the Dynamic Sustainability Framework, we applied the Behaviour Change Wheel to our prior mixed methods to identify key sustainability behaviors and determinants of sustainability before specifying corresponding intervention functions, behavior change techniques, and implementation strategies that would be acceptable, equitable and promote key tenets of sustainability (i.e., continued improvement, education). Drawing on user-centered design principles, we enlisted 22 national and local stakeholders to operationalize and adapt (e.g., content, functionality, workflow) a multi-level, multi-component implementation strategy to maximally target behavioral and contextual determinants of sustainability.

Results: After reviewing the long-term impact of early implementation strategies (i.e., external technical support, quality monitoring, and reimbursement), we identified ongoing care manager CC delivery, provider treatment optimization, and patient enrollment as key sustainability behaviors. The most acceptable, equitable, and feasible intervention functions that would facilitate ongoing improvement included environmental restructuring, education, training, modeling, persuasion, and enablement. We determined that a waiting room delivered shared decision-making and psychoeducation patient tool (DepCare), the results of which are delivered to providers, as well as ongoing problem-solving meetings/local technical assistance with care managers would be the most acceptable and equitable multi-level strategy in diverse settings seeking to sustain CC programs. Key adaptations in response to dynamic contextual factors included expanding the DepCare tool to incorporate anxiety/suicide screening, triage support, multi-modal delivery, and patient activation (vs. shared decision making) (patient); pairing summary reports with decisional support and yearly onboarding/motivational educational videos (provider); incorporating behavioral health providers into problem-solving meetings and shifting from billing support to quality improvement and triage (system).

Conclusion: We provide a roadmap for designing behavioral theory-informed, implementation strategies that promote sustainability and employing user-centered design principles to adapt strategies to changing mental health landscapes.