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Hartmann CW, Engle RL, Pimentel CB, Mills WL, Clark VA, Keleher VC, Nash P, Ott C, Roland T, Sloup S, Frank B, Brady C, Snow AL. Virtual external implementation facilitation: successful methods for remotely engaging groups in quality improvement. Implementation science communications. 2021 Jun 22; 2(1):66.
BACKGROUND: Relatively little guidance exists on how to use virtual implementation facilitation to successfully implement evidence-based practices and innovations into clinical programs. Yet virtual methods are increasingly common. They have potentially wider reach, emergent public health situations necessitate their use, and restrictions on resources can make them more attractive. We therefore outline a set of principles for virtual external implementation facilitation and a series of recommendations based on extensive experience successfully using virtual external implementation facilitation in a national program. MODEL AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Success in virtual external implementation facilitation may be achieved by facilitators applying three overarching principles: pilot everything, incorporate a model, and prioritize metacognition. Five practical principles also help: plan in advance, communicate in real time, build relationships, engage participants, and construct a virtual room for participants. We present eight concrete suggestions for enacting the practical principles: (1) assign key facilitation roles to facilitation team members to ensure the program runs smoothly; (2) create small cohorts of participants so they can have meaningful interactions; (3) provide clarity and structure for all participant interactions; (4) structure program content to ensure key points are described, reinforced, and practiced; (5) use visuals to supplement audio content; (6) build activities into the agenda that enable participants to immediately apply knowledge at their own sites, separate from the virtual experience; (7) create backup plans whenever possible; and (8) engage all participants in the program. These principles represent a novel conceptualization of virtual external implementation facilitation, giving structure to a process that has been, to date, inadequately described. The associated actions are demonstrably useful in supporting the principles and offer teams interested in virtual external implementation facilitation concrete methods by which to ensure success. Our examples stem from experiences in healthcare. But the principles can, in theory, be applied to virtual external implementation facilitation regardless of setting, as they and the associated actions are not setting specific.