Background The capacity for health systems to support the translation of research in to clinical practice may be limited. The cluster randomised controlled trial (cluster RCT) design is often employed in evaluating the effectiveness of implementation of evidence-based practices. We aimed to systematically review available evidence to identify and evaluate the components in the implementation process at the facility level using cluster RCT designs.
Methods All cluster RCTs where the healthcare facility was the unit of randomisation, published or written from 1990 to 2014, were assessed. Included studies were analysed for the components of implementation interventions employed in each. Through iterative mapping and analysis, we synthesised a master list of components used and summarised the effects of different combinations of interventions on practices.
Results Forty-six studies met the inclusion criteria and covered the specialty groups of obstetrics and gynaecology (n=9), paediatrics and neonatology (n=4), intensive care (n=4), internal medicine (n=20), and anaesthetics and surgery (n=3). Six studies included interventions that were delivered across specialties. Nine components of multifaceted implementation interventions were identified: leadership, barrier identification, tailoring to the context, patient involvement, communication, education, supportive supervision, provision of resources, and audit and feedback. The four main components that were most commonly used were education (n=42, 91%), audit and feedback (n=26, 57%), provision of resources (n=23, 50%) and leadership (n=21, 46%).
Conclusions Future implementation research should focus on better reporting of multifaceted approaches, incorporating sets of components that facilitate the translation of research into practice, and should employ rigorous monitoring and evaluation.