Implementing a digital intervention for managing uncontrolled hypertension in Primary Care: a mixed methods process evaluation.
Morton K., Dennison L., Band R., Stuart B., Wilde L., Cheetham-Blake T., Heber E., Slodkowska-Barabasz J., Little P., McManus RJ., May CR., Yardley L., Bradbury K.
BACKGROUND: A high proportion of hypertensive patients remain above the target threshold for blood pressure, increasing the risk of adverse health outcomes. A digital intervention to facilitate healthcare practitioners (hereafter practitioners) to initiate planned medication escalations when patients' home readings were raised was found to be effective in lowering blood pressure over 12 months. This mixed-methods process evaluation aimed to develop a detailed understanding of how the intervention was implemented in Primary Care, possible mechanisms of action and contextual factors influencing implementation. METHODS: One hundred twenty-five practitioners took part in a randomised controlled trial, including GPs, practice nurses, nurse-prescribers, and healthcare assistants. Usage data were collected automatically by the digital intervention and antihypertensive medication changes were recorded from the patients' medical notes. A sub-sample of 27 practitioners took part in semi-structured qualitative process interviews. The qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis and the quantitative data using descriptive statistics and correlations to explore factors related to adherence. The two sets of findings were integrated using a triangulation protocol. RESULTS: Mean practitioner adherence to escalating medication was moderate (53%), and the qualitative analysis suggested that low trust in home readings and the decision to wait for more evidence influenced implementation for some practitioners. The logic model was partially supported in that self-efficacy was related to adherence to medication escalation, but qualitative findings provided further insight into additional potential mechanisms, including perceived necessity and concerns. Contextual factors influencing implementation included proximity of average readings to the target threshold. Meanwhile, adherence to delivering remote support was mixed, and practitioners described some uncertainty when they received no response from patients. CONCLUSIONS: This mixed-methods process evaluation provided novel insights into practitioners' decision-making around escalating medication using a digital algorithm. Implementation strategies were proposed which could benefit digital interventions in addressing clinical inertia, including facilitating tracking of patients' readings over time to provide stronger evidence for medication escalation, and allowing more flexibility in decision-making whilst discouraging clinical inertia due to borderline readings. Implementation of one-way notification systems could be facilitated by enabling patients to send a brief acknowledgement response. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ( ISRCTN13790648 ). Registered 14 May 2015.