A Stepped-Wedge Cluster-Randomized Trial to Improve Adherence to Evidence-Based Practices for Acute Stroke Management

Dominique A. Cadilhac, Violet Marion, Nadine E. Andrew, Sibilah J. Breen, Brenda Grabsch, Tara Purvis, Julie L. Morrison, Natasha A. Lannin, Rohan S. Grimley, Sandy Middleton, Monique F. Kilkenny

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is limited evidence regarding the optimal design and composition of multifaceted quality improvement programs to improve acute stroke care. The researchers aimed to test the effectiveness of a co-designed multifaceted intervention (STELAR: Shared Team Efforts Leading to Adherence Results) directed at hospital clinicians for improving acute stroke care tailored to the local context using feedback of national registry indicator data. Methods: STELAR was a stepped-wedge cluster trial (partial randomization) using routinely collected Australian Stroke Clinical Registry data from Victorian hospitals segmented in two-month blocks. Each hospital (cluster) contributed control data from May 2017 and data for the intervention phase from July 2017 until September 2018. The intervention was multifaceted, delivered predominantly in two educational outreach workshops by experienced, external improvement facilitators, consisting of (1) feedback of registry data to identify practice gaps and (2) interprofessional education, barrier assessment, and documentation of an agreed action plan initiated by local clinical leaders appointed as change champions for prioritized clinical indicators. The researchers provided additional outreach support by e-mail/telephone for two months. Multilevel, multivariable regression models were used to assess change in a composite outcome of indicators selected for actions plans (primary outcome) and individual indicators (secondary outcome). Patient survival and disability 90–180 days after stroke were also compared. Results: Nine hospitals (clusters) participated, and 144 clinicians attended 18 intervention workshops. The control phase included 1,001 patients (median age 76.7 years; 47.4% female, 64.7% ischemic stroke), and the intervention phase 2,146 patients (median age 74.9 years; 44.2% female, 73.8% ischemic stroke). Compared to the control phase, the median score for the composite outcome for the intervention phase was 17% greater for the indicators included in the hospitals’ action plans (range 3% to 30%, p = 0.016) and overall for the 10 indicators 6% greater (range 3% to 10%, p < 0.001). Compared to the control phase, patients in the intervention phase more often received stroke unit care (odds ratio [OR] 1.39, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.05–1.84), were discharged on antithrombotic medications (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.50–2.33), and received a discharge care plan (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.05–1.53). Patient outcomes were unchanged. Conclusion: External quality improvement facilitation using workshops and remote support, aligned with routine monitoring via registries, can improve acute stroke care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-664
Number of pages12
JournalThe Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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