Staff perspectives on the feasibility of a clinical pathway for anxiety and depression in cancer care, and mid-implementation adaptations.

BioMed Central
Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Health Services Research, 2022, 22, (1), pp. 1-12
Issue Date:
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BACKGROUND: Clinical pathways (CPs) are intended to standardise and improve care but do not always produce positive outcomes, possibly because they were not adapted to suit the specific context in which they were enacted. This qualitative study aimed to explore staff perspectives of implementation of a CP for routine screening, assessment, referral and management of anxiety and depression (the ADAPT CP) for patients with cancer, focussing on perceived feasibility of the CP and negotiated adaptations made during the implementation phase. METHODS: The ADAPT CP was implemented in 12 urban and regional oncology services in Australia. Services were randomised to receive core versus enhanced implementation strategies. Core sites received support until implementation commencement and could access progress reports. Enhanced sites received proactive, ongoing support during the 12-month implementation. Purposively selected staff were interviewed prior to implementation (n = 88) and 6 months later, half-way through the implementation period (n = 89). Monthly meetings with lead multi-disciplinary teams at the eight enhanced sites were recorded. Data were thematically analysed. RESULTS: Six overarching themes were identified: ADAPT is of high value; timing for introducing the CP and screening is difficult; online screening is challenging; a burden too much; no-one to refer patients to; and micro-logistics are key. While early screening was deemed desirable, diverse barriers meant this was complex, with adaptations made to time and screening location. Online screening prompted by email, seen as time-saving and efficient, also proved unsuccessful in some services, with adaptations made to in-clinic or phone screening, or repeated email reminders. Staff negative attitudes to ADAPT, time constraints, and perceived poor fit of ADAPT to work roles and flows, all impacted implementation, with key tasks often devolving to a few key individuals. Nevertheless, services remained committed to the ADAPT CP, and worked hard to create, review and adapt strategies to address challenges to optimise success. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the interactive nature of health service change, with staff actively engaging with, forming views on, and problem-solving adaptations of the ADAPT CP to overcome barriers. Obtaining staff feedback is critical to ensure health service change is sustainable, meaningful and achieves its promise of improving patient outcomes. TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study was registered prospectively with the ANZCTR on 22/3/2017. Trial ID ACTRN12617000411347.
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