Exploring the black box of change in improving test-ordering routines

Marloes A. Van Bokhoven*, Hèlen Koch, Geert Jan Dinant, Patrick Je Bindels, Richard P.T.M. Grol, Trudy Van der Weijden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background. The effects of quality improvement strategies are sometimes limited in spite of a systematic development approach. What elements play a role in the change process is not yet fully understood. Objective. To explore this "black box" of change, by analysing the barriers and facilitators GPs perceive during the change process. Methods. Qualitative study among GPs who participated in the quality improvement strategy arm of a randomized clinical trial on blood test ordering for unexplained complaints (UCs). The strategy was based on a national guideline that advocates delayed test ordering in patients presenting with UCs. Each GP's change process was assessed by means of a semi-structured interview about barriers to and facilitators of change. Results. Twenty-four interviews were analysed. Important themes identified in the interviews were lack of problem awareness, the time and effort it takes to change, influence of patients and the pros and cons of the changed behaviour. Conclusion. The themes can be summarized into one comprehensive issue: the GPs lack a sense of urgency to change. An important explanation seems to be that two questions from the problem analysis prior to the development of the strategy had not been adequately answered: "Is the GPs' current behaviour a problem and does the problem have consequences for patients?" and if so, "What is the extent of the problem?." As a result, insufficient attention was given to applicability issues, such as time investment, costs and patient and practitioner satisfaction and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dutch Health Care Insurance Board (CVZ); the Centraal Ziekenfonds health insurance company; the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) (grant 920-03-157). None of the sources of funding influenced the study design or the writing of the manuscript or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. Ethical approval: Not applicable. Conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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