Background: A multisite, randomized controlled trial was conducted from August 1994 through January 1996 to compare the impact of two strategies-academic detailing (AD) and continuous quality improvement (CQI) teams-on the implementation of national guidelines for the primary care of hypertension and depression.
Study: Twelve small groups of providers at four clinics-two at Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound (Seattle) and two at academic medical centers-were randomized in blocks along with their primary care patients to receive AD alone, AD plus CQI, or usual care. A detailing session conducted by a physician and two follow-up sessions conducted by a pharmacist lasted an average of 8-9 minutes. Each CQI team, which met, on average, 14 times in nine months, devised at least one intervention (for example, weight loss counseling for hypertensives by nurse practitioners).
Results: The detailing endeavors differed greatly across organizations. Although all teams generally worked well together, organizational factors such as staff layoffs and reorganizations competed for the teams' attention. Team leaders differed in their ability to inspire members to "run with" ideas and to motivate personnel outside the team to implement interventions.
Summary and conclusions: Surveys and semi-structured interviews suggest that both the AD and CQI interventions involved complex social interactions that resulted in varied implementation across the different organizations. Final analyses will need to focus on identifying factors associated with the relative success or failure of both clinical change techniques.