Objectives: This article proposes, tests, and explores the potential applications of a model of the cognitive and behavioral steps physicians take when they comply with national clinical practice guidelines. The authors propose that when physicians comply with practice guidelines, they must first become aware of the guidelines, then intellectually agree with them, then decide to adopt them in the care they provide, then regularly adhere to them at appropriate times.
Methods: Data used to test this model address physicians' responses to national pediatric vaccine recommendations. Questionnaires were mailed to 3,014 family physicians and pediatricians who were working in communities of various sizes in nine states.
Results: The survey response rate was 66.2%. In the case of the recommendation to provide hepatitis B vaccine to all infants, guideline awareness among respondents was 98.4%, agreement 70.4%, adoption 77.7%, and adherence 30.1%. The data for 87.9% of physicians fit the model at every step. Significant deviation from the model occurred only for the 11% of all physicians who adopted the hepatitis B recommendation without agreeing with it. In the case of the recommendation to provide the acellular variety of the pertussis vaccine for children's fourth and fifth pertussis doses, guideline awareness among respondents was 89.8%, agreement 66.5%, adoption 46.3%, and adherence 35.2%. Data fit the model at every step for 90.6% of physicians. Greater likelihood of movement from each step to the next in the path to adherence was found for physicians with certain characteristics, information sources, and beliefs about the vaccines, and those in certain types of practice settings. Specific physician and practice characteristics typically predicted movement along only one or two of the steps to adherence to either the hepatitis B or acellular pertussis recommendations.
Conclusions: These data on physicians' use of pediatric vaccine recommendations generally support the awareness-to-adherence model. This model may prove useful in identifying ways to improve physicians' adherence to a variety of guidelines by demonstrating where physicians fall off the path to adherence, which physicians are at greatest risk for not attaining each step in the path, and factors associated with a greater likelihood of attaining each step toward guideline adherence.