Whilst it’s true that, generally speaking, patients are knowledgeable regarding their ailments and even potential treatments, there can be no doubt that they still look to their physician for definitive answers. With patients approaching their hospital appointments or doctor’s surgery in this new frame of mind, HCP behaviour change programmes can help practitioners to also adopt different approaches to achieve improved patient outcomes.
Medical education programmes go a long way towards initiating HCP behaviour change, but they’re often not specific enough. They don’t directly address what they’re aiming to change in clinical practice beyond creating awareness, offering discussion points, and getting the message across.
Medical education and behaviour change programmes are continually evolving with the development of new treatments, or as new drugs become available. The ongoing point of medical education should therefore be to provide physicians and other HCPs with the skills and tools they need to continually improve patient outcomes. And for those skills and tools to be effective, they must be grounded in current scientific knowledge.
Knowledge alone is not enough
Health psychology contributes mountains of evidence-based knowledge that provides a deep understanding of what drives human behaviour, what encourages us to change behaviour patterns and work to overcome barriers to change.
Knowledge alone won’t bring about better patient care and outcomes, however, or result in HCP behaviour change that would improve the care given within their clinics. In order to take that amassed wisdom from diverse scientific and behavioural studies and turn it into practicable solutions or behaviour change programmes, knowledge translation (KT) is necessary.
Only then can we bring forward validated techniques to develop tailored interventions for change in clinical practice. Developing HCP behaviour change programmes demands some structured thinking around:
- Specific goals.
- What behaviours are needed to accomplish the goals.
- Tailored interventions that lead into the needed behaviour.
- Ways to measure change and its success rate.
With specific targets in mind, we can then develop medical education programmes to support HCP behaviour change.
Where knowledge translation triumphs
Knowledge translation is the process through which we translate research into programmes we can put into practice. It’s a constantly evolving and dynamic process, demanding synthesis and dissemination from multiple research disciplines. Given the many different factors that can influence HCP practice (one study identified 57 separate clusters), there is a clear need for the design of effective HCP behaviour change interventions that are closely based on evidence. Unfortunately, many are not so, resulting in interventions that are hard to evaluate.
Good KT interventions are devised following application of these generally accepted steps. These involve:
- Being specific about the behaviour in need of change.
- Identifying the barriers to the desired behaviour change.
- Determining which intervention component links directly to the identified barrier.
- Current theories surrounding behaviour, taken from multiple research disciplines: medical, health psychology, and behavioural sciences.
- Seeking feasibility input and likely acceptance of an intervention by those who will use it.
A final step is to include means and methods to measure the success of the intervention. These measurements must include changes in patient outcomes as well as changes in clinical practice.
Knowledge translation techniques are key to the success of HCP behaviour change interventions designed by COUCH. We aim to go beyond mere message delivery, providing interventions that bring about real changes for HCPs and, ultimately, for patients.