Primary Care Behavioral Health in Sweden - a protocol of a cluster randomized trial evaluating outcomes related to implementation, organization, and patients (KAIROS)

BMC Health Serv Res. 2023 Oct 31;23(1):1188. doi: 10.1186/s12913-023-10180-9.


Background: Providing comprehensive and continuous care for patients whose conditions have mental or behavioral components is a central challenge in primary care and an important part of improving universal health coverage. There is a great need for high and routine availability of psychological interventions, but traditional methods for delivering psychotherapy often result in low reach and long wait times. Primary Care Behavioral Health (PCBH) is a method for organizing primary care in which behavioral health staff provide brief, flexible interventions to a large part of the population in active collaboration with other providers. While PCBH holds promise in addressing important challenges, it has not yet been thoroughly evaluated.

Methods: This cluster randomized trial will assess 17 primary care centers (PCCs) that are starting a PCBH implementation process. The PCCs will be divided into two groups, with one starting immediate implementation and the other acting as a control, implementing six months later. The purpose of the study is to strengthen the evidence base for PCBH regarding implementation-, organization-, and patient-level outcomes, taking into consideration that there is a partially dependent relationship between the three levels. Patient outcomes (such as increased daily functioning and reduction of symptoms) may be dependent on organizational changes (such as availability of treatment, waiting times and interprofessional teamwork), which in turn requires change in implementation outcomes (most notably, model fidelity). In addition to the main analysis, five secondary analyses will compare groups based on different combinations of randomization and time periods, specifically before and after each center achieves sufficient PCBH fidelity.

Discussion: A randomized comparison of PCBH and traditional primary care has, to our knowledge, not been made before. While the naturalistic setting and the intricacies of implementation pose certain challenges, we have designed this study in an effort to evaluate the causal effects of PCBH despite these complex aspects. The results of this project will be helpful in guiding decisions on how to organize the delivery of behavioral interventions and psychological treatment within the context of primary care in Sweden and elsewhere.

Trial registration: NCT05335382. Retrospectively registered on March 13th, 2022.

Keywords: Behavioral health; Cluster randomization; Implementation; Integrated care; Mental health; PCBH; Primary care; Primary care behavioral health.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Psychiatry*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sweden

Associated data