Facilitators of and barriers to reducing thirty-day readmissions and improving patient-reported outcomes after surgical aortic valve replacement: a process evaluation of the AVRre trial

Abstract Background The Aortic Valve Replacement Readmission (AVRre) randomized control trial tested whether a telephone intervention would reduce hospital readmissions following surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR). The telephone support provided 30 days of continuous phone-support (hotline) and two scheduled phone-calls from the hospital after discharge. The intervention had no effect on reducing 30-day all-cause readmission rate (30-DACR) but did reduce participants’ anxiety compared to a control group receiving usual care. Depression and participant-reported health state were unaffected by the intervention. To better understand these outcomes, we conducted a process evaluation of the AVRre trial to gain insight into the (1) the dose and fidelity of the intervention, (2) mechanism of impacts, and (3) contextual factors that may have influenced the outcomes. Methods The process evaluation was informed by the Medical Research Council framework, a widely used set of guidelines for evaluating complex interventions. A mix of quantitative (questionnaire and journal records) and qualitative data (field notes, memos, registration forms, questionnaire) was prospectively collected, and retrospective interviews were conducted. We performed descriptive analyses of the quantitative data. Content analyses, assisted by NVivo, were performed to evaluate qualitative data. Results The nurses who were serving the 24/7 hotline intervention desired to receive more preparation before intervention implementation. SAVR patient participants were highly satisfied with the telephone intervention (58%), felt safe (86%), and trusted having the option of calling in for support (91%). The support for the telephone hotline staff was perceived as a facilitator of the intervention implementation. Content analyses revealed themes: “gap in the care continuum,” “need for individualized care,” and “need for easy access to health information” after SAVR. Differences in local hospital discharge management practices influenced the 30-DACR incidence. Conclusions The prospective follow-up of the hotline service during the trial facilitated implementation of the intervention, contributing to high participant satisfaction and likely reduced their anxiety after SAVR. Perceived less-than-optimal preparations for the hotline could be a barrier to AVRre trial implementation. Integrating user experiences into a mixed-methods evaluation of clinical trials is important for broadening understanding of trial outcomes, the mechanism of impact, and contextual factors that influence clinical trials. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02522663. Registered on 11 August 2015.