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Assessing treatment-as-usual provided to control groups in adherence trials: Exploring the use of an open-ended questionnaire for identifying behaviour change techniques

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Objective: Reporting guidelines call for descriptions of control group support in equal detail as for interventions. However, how to assess the active content (behaviour change techniques (BCTs)) of treatment-as-usual (TAU) delivered to control groups in trials remains unclear. The objective of this study is to pre-test a method of assessing TAU in a multicentre cost-effectiveness trial of an HIV-treatment adherence intervention.

Design: HIV-nurses (N = 21) completed a semi-structured open-ended questionnaire enquiring about TAU adherence counselling. Two coders independently coded BCTs.

Main outcome measures: Completeness and clarity of nurse responses, inter-coder reliabilities and the type of BCTs reported were examined.

Results: The clarity and completeness of nurse responses were adequate. Twenty-three of the 26 identified BCTs could be reliably coded (mean κ = .79; mean agreement rate = 96%) and three BCTs scored below κ = .60. Total number of BCTs reported per nurse ranged between 7 and 19 (M = 13.86, SD = 3.35).

Conclusions: This study suggests that the TAU open-ended questionnaire is a feasible and reliable tool to capture active content of support provided to control participants in a multicentre adherence intervention trial. Considerable variability in the number of BCTs provided to control patients was observed, illustrating the importance of reliably collecting and accurately reporting control group support.
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Keywords: behaviour change techniques; control group; randomised controlled trial; treatment-as-usual

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, Amsterdam School of Communication Research ASCoR, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Center for Infection and Immunity Amsterdam, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: August 3, 2015

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