Do the Expert Recommendations for Implementing Change (ERIC) strategies adequately address sustainment?

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Frontiers in Health Services


Background: Sustainability science is an emerging area within implementation science. There is limited evidence regarding strategies to best support the continued delivery and sustained impact of evidence-based interventions (EBIs). To build such evidence, clear definitions, and ways to operationalize strategies specific and/or relevant to sustainment are required. Taxonomies and compilations such as the Expert Recommendations for Implementing Change (ERIC) were developed to describe and organize implementation strategies. This study aimed to adapt, refine, and extend the ERIC compilation to incorporate an explicit focus on sustainment. We also sought to classify the specific phase(s) of implementation when the ERIC strategies could be considered and applied. Methods: We used a two-phase iterative approach to adapt the ERIC. This involved: (1) adapting through consensus (ERIC strategies were mapped against barriers to sustainment as identified via the literature to identify if existing implementation strategies were sufficient to address sustainment, needed wording changes, or if new strategies were required) and; (2) preliminary application of this sustainment-explicit ERIC glossary (strategies described in published sustainment interventions were coded against the glossary to identify if any further amendments were needed). All team members independently reviewed changes and provided feedback for subsequent iterations until consensus was reached. Following this, and utilizing the same consensus process, the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation and Sustainment (EPIS) Framework was applied to identify when each strategy may be best employed across phases. Results: Surface level changes were made to the definitions of 41 of the 73 ERIC strategies to explicitly address sustainment. Four additional strategies received deeper changes in their definitions. One new strategy was identified: Communicate with stakeholders the continued impact of the evidence-based practice. Application of the EPIS identified that at least three-quarters of strategies should be considered during preparation and implementation phases as they are likely to impact sustainment. Conclusion: A sustainment-explicit ERIC glossary is provided to help researchers and practitioners develop, test, or apply strategies to improve the sustainment of EBIs in real-world settings. Whilst most ERIC strategies only needed minor changes, their impact on sustainment needs to be tested empirically which may require significant refinement or additions in the future.

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