Improving difficult peripheral intravenous access requires thought, training and technology (DART3): a stepped-wedge, cluster randomised controlled trial protocol

Jessica A. Schults*, Nicole Marsh, Amanda J. Ullman, Tricia M. Kleidon, Robert S. Ware, Joshua Byrnes, Emily Young, Lisa Hall, Gerben Keijzers, Louise Cullen, Pauline Calleja, Steven McTaggart, Nathan Peters, Stuart Watkins, Amanda Corley, Christine Brown, Zhen Lin, Frances Williamson, Luke Burgess, Fiona MacfarlaneMarie Cooke, Callan Battley, Claire M. Rickard

*Corresponding author for this work

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Peripheral intravenous catheters (PIVCs) are the most used invasive medical device in healthcare. Yet around half of insertion attempts are unsuccessful leading to delayed medical treatments and patient discomfort of harm. Ultrasound-guided PIVC (USGPIVC) insertion is an evidence-based intervention shown to improve insertion success especially in patients with Difficult IntraVenous Access (BMC Health Serv Res 22:220, 2022), however the implementation in some healthcare settings remains suboptimal. This study aims to co-design interventions that optimise ultrasound guided PIVC insertion in patients with DIVA, implement and evaluate these initiatives and develop scale up activities. 


A stepped-wedge cluster randomized controlled trial will be conducted in three hospitals (two adult, one paediatric) in Queensland, Australia. The intervention will be rolled out across 12 distinct clusters (four per hospital). Intervention development will be guided by Michie’s Behavior Change Wheel with the aim to increase local staff capability, opportunity, and motivation for appropriate, sustainable adoption of USGPIVC insertion. Eligible clusters include all wards or departments where > 10 PIVCs/week are typically inserted. All clusters will commence in the control (baseline) phase, then, one cluster per hospital will step up every two months, as feasible, to the implementation phase, where the intervention will be rolled out. Implementation strategies are tailored for each hospital by local investigators and advisory groups, through context assessments, staff surveys, and stakeholder interviews and informed by extensive consumer interviews and consultation. Outcome measures align with the RE-AIM framework including clinical-effectiveness outcomes (e.g., first-time PIVC insertion success for DIVA patients [primary outcome], number of insertion attempts); implementation outcomes (e.g., intervention fidelity, readiness assessment) and cost effectiveness outcomes. The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research framework will be used to report the intervention as it was implemented; how people participated in and responded to the intervention; contextual influences and how the theory underpinning the intervention was realised and delivered at each site. A sustainability assessment will be undertaken at three- and six-months post intervention. 


Study findings will help define systematic solutions to implement DIVA identification and escalation tools aiming to address consumer dissatisfaction with current PIVC insertion practices. Such actionable knowledge is critical for implementation of scale-up activities. Trial registration: Prospectively registered (Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry; ACTRN12621001497897).

Original languageEnglish
Article number587
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2023


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