Background: Research suggests that variation in laboratory requesting patterns may indicate unnecessary test use. Requesting patterns for serum immunoglobulins vary significantly between general practitioners (GPs). This study aims to explore GP's views on testing to identify the determinants of behaviour and recommend feasible intervention strategies for improving immunoglobulin test use in primary care.
Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs requesting laboratory tests at Cork University Hospital or University Hospital Kerry in the South of Ireland. GPs were identified using a Health Service Executive laboratory list of GPs in the Cork-Kerry region. A random sample of GPs (stratified by GP requesting patterns) was generated from this list. GPs were purposively sampled based on the criteria of location (urban/rural); length of time qualified; and practice size (single-handed/group). Interviews were carried out between December 2014 and February 2015. Interviews were transcribed verbatim using NVivo 10 software and analysed using the framework analysis method. Emerging themes were mapped to the theoretical domains framework (TDF), which outlines 12 domains that can enable or inhibit behaviour change. The behaviour change wheel and behaviour change technique (BCT) taxonomy were then used to identify potential intervention strategies.
Results: Sixteen GPs were interviewed (ten males and six females). Findings suggest that intervention strategies should specifically target the key barriers to effective test ordering, while considering the context of primary care practice. Seven domains from the TDF were perceived to influence immunoglobulin test ordering behaviours and were identified as 'mechanisms for change' (knowledge, environmental context and resources, social/professional role and identity, beliefs about capabilities, beliefs about consequences, memory, attention and decision-making processes and behavioural regulation). Using these TDF domains, seven BCTs emerged as feasible 'intervention content' for targeting GPs' ordering behaviour. These included instructions on how to effectively request the test (how to perform behaviour), information on GPs' use of the test (feedback on behaviour), information about patient consequences resulting from not doing the test (information about health consequences), laboratory/consultant-based advice/education (credible source), altering the test ordering form (restructuring the physical environment), providing guidelines (prompts/cues) and adding interpretive comments to the results (adding objects to the environment). These BCTs aligned to four intervention functions: education, persuasion, environmental restructuring and enablement.
Conclusions: This study has effectively applied behaviour change theory to identify feasible strategies for improving immunoglobulin test use in primary care using the TDF, 'behaviour change wheel' and BCT taxonomy. The identified BCTs will form the basis of a theory-based intervention to improve the use of immunoglobulin tests among GPs. Future research will involve the development and evaluation of this intervention.