Sarkies MN, Skinner EH, Bowles KA, Morris ME, Williams C, O’Brien L, et al. A novel counterbalanced implementation study design: methodological description and application to implementation research. Implement Sci. 2019;14(1):45.


Implementation research is increasingly being recognised for optimising the outcomes of clinical practice. Frequently, the benefits of new evidence are not implemented due to the difficulties applying traditional research methodologies to implementation settings. Randomised controlled trials are not always practical for the implementation phase of knowledge transfer, as differences between individual and organisational readiness for change combined with small sample sizes can lead to imbalances in factors that impede or facilitate change between intervention and control groups. Within-cluster repeated measure designs could control for variance between intervention and control groups by allowing the same clusters to receive a sequence of conditions. Although in implementation settings, they can contaminate the intervention and control groups after the initial exposure to interventions. We propose the novel application of counterbalanced design to implementation research where repeated measures are employed through crossover, but contamination is averted by counterbalancing different health contexts in which to test the implementation strategy.