Can the stepped-wedge design help determine which health policies are effective and important

Researchers constantly look for ways to improve patient’s health and quality-of-life. Before new treatments or polices are introduced, they need to be tested. Researchers need to make sure they conduct these testing studies carefully. A particular intervention might be effective and improve the quality-of-life for patients, but if the results of the study have not been measured properly, people who make decisions about care may make incorrect decisions.

One particular type of study design is called a stepped-wedge-cluster-randomised-trial (SW-CRT). This is a new study design which is particularly valuable for evaluating changes in the way care is delivered. The new policy is gradually rolled-out so that every group (e.g. hospital) receives the new way of care in the end.
More and more studies are now using the SW-CRT. However, more research needs to be done so we can better understand the study and how it can be used in the best ways to get the best results. In this talk I will explore how and if the SW-CRT can help determine what new healthcare policies bring about improvements in the quality of care and help the NHS identify where resources should be targeted.

Professor Karla Hemming is an internationally renowned expert in stepped-wedge trials and leads a research programme related to stepped wedge trials; this includes both theoretical and applied research.