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Nevedal AL, Reardon CM, Jackson GL, Cutrona SL, White B, Gifford AL, Orvek E, DeLaughter K, White L, King HA, Henderson B, Vega R, Damschroder L. Implementation and sustainment of diverse practices in a large integrated health system: a mixed methods study. Implementation science communications. 2020 Jul 3; 1:61.
Background: One goal of health systems seeking to evolve into learning health systems is to accelerate the implementation and sustainment of evidence-based practices (EBPs). As part of this evolution, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) developed the Innovation Ecosystem, which includes the Diffusion of Excellence (DoE), a program that identifies and diffuses Gold Status Practices (GSPs) across facilities. The DoE hosts an annual "Shark Tank" competition in which leaders bid on the opportunity to implement a GSP with 6 months of implementation support. Over 750 diverse practices were submitted in cohorts 2 and 3 of Shark Tank; 23 were designated GSPs and were implemented in 31 VA networks or facilities. As part of a national evaluation of the DoE, we identified factors contributing to GSP implementation and sustainment. Methods: Our sequential mixed methods evaluation of cohorts 2 and 3 of Shark Tank included semi-structured interviews with at least one representative from 30/31 implementing teams ( = 78/105 people invited) and survey responses from 29/31 teams ( = 39/47 invited). Interviews focused on factors influencing implementation and future sustainment. Surveys focused on sustainment 1.5-2 years after implementation. The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) informed data collection and directed content analysis. Ordinal scales were developed inductively to rank implementation and sustainment outcomes. Results: Over 50% of teams (17/30) successfully implemented their GSP within the 6-month implementation period. Despite extensive implementation support, significant barriers related to centralized decision-making, staffing, and resources led to partial ( = 6) or no ( = 7) implementation for the remaining teams. While 12/17 initially successful implementation teams reported sustained use of their GSP, over half of the initially unsuccessful teams ( = 7/13) also reported sustained GSP use 1.5 years after the initial implementation period. When asked at 6 months, 18/27 teams with complete data accurately anticipated their future sustainability based on reported sustainment an average of 1.5 years later. Conclusions: Most teams implemented within 6 months and/or sustained their GSP 1.5 years later. High levels of implementation and sustainment across diverse practices and teams suggest that VHA's DoE is a successful large-scale model of diffusion. Team predictions about sustainability after the first 6 months of implementation provide a promising early assessment and point of intervention to increase sustainability.