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Table 8 Key dimensions of complex interventions

From: Intervention description is not enough: evidence from an in-depth multiple case study on the untold role and impact of context in randomised controlled trials of seven complex interventions

1. Principles/purpose/function - what the intervention is designed to do
2. Target of intervention - is this direct or indirect (that is, does intervention depend on different people/steps to have an impact on target)
3. Structure and architecture - what elements are included and how are they put together (that is, components, steps, order)
4. Theory behind the links between target, structure and purpose (that is, links between 1, 2 and 3)
5. Crucial/central components or defining features (take note, may be an interaction or encompassing element of the bundled intervention)
6. Level of flexibility/tailoring and at what level (that is, tailored to individual, to practitioner, to clinical area)
7. Degree of active participation required from patients/target group
8. Factors that may encourage participation, compliance or uptake from patient/target group
9. Dependence on healthcare professionals - level of input required and at what stages/steps of intervention
10. Number of healthcare professionals required - discrepancies between them
11. Essential characteristics/attributes of healthcare professionals necessary for intervention - skills, knowledge, time, resources, affinity or preference for intervention
12. Location(s) - single, multiple, mixed, home/hospital/primary care, across boundaries
13. Time span - overall timing of intervention, including relationship between recruitment and intervention start/finish, relationship between intervention and timing of illness or critical event, relationship between intervention and outcome measurement
14. Timing of intervention components within structure/architecture of intervention - that is, duration, intervals between, number of sessions
15. Organisational pre-requisites - practitioners, settings, organisational support, organisational structure.