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Applying psychological theories to evidence-based clinical practice

Applying psychological theories to evidence-based clinical practice: identifying factors predictive of placing preventive fissure sealants

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  • Debbie Bonetti (Lead / Corresponding author)
  • Marie Johnston
  • Jan E. Clarkson
  • Jeremy Grimshaw
  • Nigel B. Pitts
  • Martin Eccles
  • Nick Steen
  • Ruth Thomas
  • Graeme Maclennan
  • Liz Glidewell
  • Anne Walker

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Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages14
JournalImplementation Science
StatePublished - 8 Apr 2010


Background: Psychological models are used to understand and predict behaviour in a wide range of settings, but have not been consistently applied to health professional behaviours, and the contribution of differing theories is not clear. This study explored the usefulness of a range of models to predict an evidence-based behaviour --the placing of fissure sealants.

Methods: Measures were collected by postal questionnaire from a random sample of general dental practitioners (GDPs) in Scotland. Outcomes were behavioural simulation (scenario decision-making), and behavioural intention. Predictor variables were from the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), Common Sense Self-regulation Model (CS-SRM), Operant Learning Theory (OLT), Implementation Intention (II), Stage Model, and knowledge (a non-theoretical construct). Multiple regression analysis was used to examine the predictive value of each theoretical model individually. Significant constructs from all theories were then entered into a 'cross theory' stepwise regression analysis to investigate their combined predictive value

Results: Behavioural simulation - theory level variance explained was: TPB 31%; SCT 29%; II 7%; OLT 30%. Neither CS-SRM nor stage explained significant variance. In the cross theory analysis, habit (OLT), timeline acute (CS-SRM), and outcome expectancy (SCT) entered the equation, together explaining 38% of the variance. Behavioural intention theory level variance explained was: TPB 30%; SCT 24%; OLT 58%, CS-SRM 27%. GDPs in the action stage had significantly higher intention to place fissure sealants. In the cross theory analysis, habit (OLT) and attitude (TPB) entered the equation, together explaining 68% of the variance in intention.

Summary: The study provides evidence that psychological models can be useful in understanding and predicting clinical behaviour. Taking a theory-based approach enables the creation of a replicable methodology for identifying factors that may predict clinical behaviour and so provide possible targets for knowledge translation interventions. Results suggest that more evidence-based behaviour may be achieved by influencing beliefs about the positive outcomes of placing fissure sealants and building a habit of placing them as part of patient management. However a number of conceptual and methodological challenges remain.


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