Can web-based implementation interventions improve physician early diagnosis of cerebral palsy? Protocol for a 3-arm parallel superiority randomised controlled trial and cost-consequence analysis comparing adaptive and non-adaptive virtual patient instructional designs with control to evaluate effectiveness on physician behaviour, diagnostic skills and patient outcomes

Publication Name

BMJ Open


Introduction Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common childhood physical disability. Accurate diagnosis before 6 months is possible using predictive tools and decision-making skills. Yet diagnosis is typically made at 12-24 months of age, hindering access to early interventions that improve functional outcomes. Change in practice is required for physicians in key diagnostic behaviours. This study aims to close the identified research-practice gap and increase accurate CP diagnosis before 6 months of age through tailored web-based implementation interventions. This trial will determine whether adaptive e-learning using virtual patients, targeting CP diagnostic behaviours and clinical decision-making skills, effectively changes physician behaviour and practice compared with non-adaptive e-learning instructional design or control. Methods and analysis This study is a 3-arm parallel superiority randomised controlled trial of two tailored e-learning interventions developed to expedite physician CP diagnosis. The trial will compare adaptive (arm 1) and non-adaptive (arm 2) instructional designs with waitlist control (arm 3) to evaluate change in physician behaviour, skills and diagnostic practice. A sample size of 275 paediatric physicians enables detection of small magnitude effects (0.2) of primary outcomes between intervention comparators with 90% power (α=0.05), allowing for 30% attrition. Barrier analysis, Delphi survey, Behaviour Change Wheel and learning theory frameworks guided the intervention designs. Adaptive and non-adaptive video and navigation sequences utilising virtual patients and clinical practice guideline content were developed, integrating formative key features assessment targeting clinical decision-making skills relative to CP diagnosis. Physician outcomes will be evaluated based on postintervention key feature examination scores plus preintervention/postintervention behavioural intentions and practice measures. Associations with CP population registers will evaluate real-world diagnostic patient outcomes. Intervention costs will be reported in a cost-consequence analysis from funders' and societal perspectives. Ethics and dissemination Ethics approved from The University of Sydney (Project number 2021/386). Results will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Trial registration number Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN 12622000184774.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





Article Number


Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)