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Sahay A, Mittman BS, Gholami P, Lin S, Heidenreich PA. How successful was the use of a community of practice for the implementation of evidence-based practices for heart failure within the United States Department of Veterans Affairs: Insights from a formative evaluation. Health research policy and systems. 2022 Jul 8; 20(1):79.
BACKGROUND: Communities of Practice (CoPs) are a promising approach to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practices (EBPs) to improve care for chronic conditions like heart failure (HF). CoPs involve a complex process of acquiring and converting both explicit and tacit knowledge into clinical activities. This study describes the conceptualization, creation, capacity-building and dissemination of a CoP sustained over 9 years, and evaluates its value and impact on EBP. METHODS: In July 2006, a CoP called the Heart Failure Provider Network (HF Network) was established within the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the overarching goal of improving the quality of care for HF patients. We assessed (formative) the HF Network in terms of its various activities (inputs) and proximal impacts (mediators) at the individual level, and its distal impacts (outcomes) at the site level including implementation of new/improved EBPs at the systemwide level. RESULTS: The HF Network membership grew steadily over the 9 years. The CoP has involved a total of 1341 multidisciplinary and multilevel members at all 144 VA Health Care Systems (sites). Most members were practising clinicians (n? = 891, 66.4%), followed by administrators (n? = 342, 25.5%), researchers (n? = 70, 5.2%) and others (n? = 38, 2.8%). Participation was assessed to be "active" for 70.6% versus "passive" for 29.4% of members. The distribution of active members (clinicians 64.7%, administrators 21.6%) was similar to the distribution of overall membership. CONCLUSIONS: Survey respondents perceived the HF Network as useful in terms of its varied activities and resources relevant for patient care. Strong evidence shows that these members, particularly those who considered themselves influential in improving quality of care, noted multiple benefits of membership, which included confirmation of their own clinical practices, evidence-based changes to their practice and help in understanding facilitators and barriers in setting up or running HF clinics and other programmes. Such CoPs have strong impacts on the quality of care being delivered for both mandated and non-mandated initiatives.