PURPOSE: Despite the growing popularity of stepped-wedge cluster randomized trials (SW-CRTs) for practice-based research, the design's advantages and challenges are not well documented. The objective of this study was to identify the advantages and challenges of the SW-CRT design for large-scale intervention implementations in primary care settings.
METHODS: The EvidenceNOW: Advancing Heart Health initiative, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, included a large collection of SW-CRTs. We conducted qualitative interviews with 17 key informants from EvidenceNOW grantees to identify the advantages and challenges of using SW-CRT design.
RESULTS: All interviewees reported that SW-CRT can be an effective study design for large-scale intervention implementations. Advantages included (1) incentivized recruitment, (2) staggered resource allocation, and (3) statistical power. Challenges included (1) time-sensitive recruitment, (2) retention, (3) randomization requirements and practice preferences, (4) achieving treatment schedule fidelity, (5) intensive data collection, (6) the Hawthorne effect, and (7) temporal trends.
CONCLUSIONS: The challenges experienced by EvidenceNOW grantees suggest that certain favorable real-world conditions constitute a context that increases the odds of a successful SW-CRT. An existing infrastructure can support the recruitment of many practices. Strong retention plans are needed to continue to engage sites waiting to start the intervention. Finally, study outcomes should be ones already captured in routine practice; otherwise, funders and investigators should assess the feasibility and cost of data collection. VISUAL ABSTRACT.
- practice improvement
- stepped wedge cluster randomized trial
- study design
- Research Design
- Cluster Analysis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Family Practice