Barriers to recruiting primary care practices for implementation research during COVID-19: A qualitative study of practice coaches from the Stop Unhealthy (STUN) Alcohol Use Now trial Public Deposited

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  • Balio, Casey P.
  • Riley, Sean R.
    • Affiliation: Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research
  • Grammer, Debbie
    • Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Other Affiliation: North Carolina Area Health Education Centers
  • Weathington, Chris
    • Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Other Affiliation: North Carolina Area Health Education Centers
  • Barclay, Colleen
    • Affiliation: Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research
    • Other Affiliation: Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • Jonas, Daniel E.
    • Affiliation: Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research
Abstract
  • Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought widespread change to health care practice and research. With heightened stress in the general population, increased unhealthy alcohol use, and added pressures on primary care practices, comes the need to better understand how we can continue practice-based research and address public health priorities amid the ongoing pandemic. The current study considers barriers and facilitators to conducting such research, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, within the context of recruiting practices for the STop UNhealthy (STUN) Alcohol Use Now trial. The STUN trial uses practice facilitation to implement screening and interventions for unhealthy alcohol use in primary care practices across the state of North Carolina. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 15 practice coaches to discuss their recruitment experiences before and after recruitment was paused due to the pandemic. An inductive thematic analysis was used to identify themes and subthemes. Results: Pandemic-related barriers, including challenges in staffing, finances, and new COVID-19-related workflows, were most prominent. Competing priorities, such as quality improvement measures, North Carolina's implementation of Medicaid managed care, and organizational structures hampered recruitment efforts. Coaches also described barriers specific to the project and to the topic of alcohol. Several facilitators were identified, including the rising importance of behavioral health due to the pandemic, as well as existing relationships between practice coaches and practices. Conclusions: Difficulty managing competing priorities and obstacles within existing practice infrastructure inhibit the ability to participate in practice-based research and implementation of evidence-based practices. Lessons learned from this trial may inform strategies to recruit practices into research and to gain buy-in from practices in adopting evidence-based practices more generally. Plain Language Summary What is known: Unhealthy alcohol use is a significant public health issue, which has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Screening and brief intervention for unhealthy alcohol use is an evidence-based practice shown to help reduce drinking-related behaviors, yet it remains rare in practice. What this study adds: Using a qualitative approach, we identify barriers and facilitators to recruiting primary care practices into a funded trial that uses practice facilitation to address unhealthy alcohol use. We identify general insights as well as those specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. Barriers are primarily related to competing priorities, incentives, and lack of infrastructure. Facilitators are related to framing of the project and the anticipated level and type of resources needed to address unhealthy alcohol use especially as the pandemic wanes. Implications: Our findings provide information on barriers and facilitators to recruiting primary care practices for behavioral health projects and to implementing these activities. Using our findings, we provide a discussion of suggestions for conducting these types of projects in the future which may be of interest to researchers, practice managers, and providers.
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  • Article
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  • In Copyright
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  • SAGE Publications Ltd and the Society for Implementation Research Colloboration, unless otherwise noted. Manuscript content on this site is licensed under Creative Commons Licenses
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  • Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
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  • Implementation Research and Practice
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  • 3
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  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
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  • 2633-4895
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  • SAGE Publications
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