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Key Design Considerations Using a Cohort Stepped-Wedge Cluster Randomised Trial in Evaluating Community-Based Interventions: Lessons Learnt from an Australian Domiciliary Aged Care Intervention Evaluation
Pages 123-133
Mohammadreza Mohebbi, Masoumeh Sanagou and Goetz Ottmann
Published: 03 August 2017

Abstract: The ‘stepped-wedge cluster randomised trial’ (SW-CRT) harbours promise when for ethical or practical reasons the recruitment of a control group is not possible or when a staggered implementation of an intervention is required. Yet SW-CRT designs can create considerable challenges in terms of methodological integration, implementation, and analysis. While cross-sectional methods in participants recruitment of the SW-CRT have been discussed in the literature the cohort method is a novel feature that has not been considered yet. This paper provides a succinct overview of the methodological, analytical, and practical aspects of cohort SW-CRTs.We discuss five issues that are of special relevance to SW-CRTs. First, issues relating to the design, secondly size of clusters and sample size; thirdly, dealing with missing data in the fourth place analysis; and finally, the advantages and disadvantages of SW-CRTs are considered. An Australian study employing a cohort SW-CRT to evaluate a domiciliary aged care intervention is used as case study. The paper concludes that the main advantage of the cohort SW-CRT is that the intervention rolls out to all participants. There are concerns about missing a whole cluster, and difficulty of completing clusters in a given time frame due to involvement frail older people. Cohort SW-CRT designs can be successfully used within public health and health promotion context. However, careful planning is required to accommodate methodological, analytical, and practical challenges.

Keywords: Clinical trials, Stepped wedge design, missing data, sample size, Cluster randomized trial.

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