BMC Med Res Methodol. 2022 Jul 21;22(1):198. doi: 10.1186/s12874-022-01653-2.
BACKGROUND: The decision to initiate invasive long-term ventilation for a child with complex medical needs can be extremely challenging. TechChild is a research programme that aims to explore the liminal space between initial consideration of such technology dependence and the final decision. This paper presents a best practice example of the development of a unique use of the factorial survey method to identify the main influencing factors in this critical juncture in a child’s care.
METHODS: We developed a within-subjects design factorial survey. In phase 1 (design) we defined the survey goal (dependent variable, mode and sample). We defined and constructed the factors and factor levels (independent variables) using previous qualitative research and existing scientific literature. We further refined these factors based on expert feedback from expert clinicians and a statistician. In phase two (pretesting), we subjected the survey tool to several iterations (cognitive interviewing, face validity testing, statistical review, usability testing). In phase three (piloting) testing focused on feasibility testing with members of the target population (n = 18). Ethical approval was obtained from the then host institution’s Health Sciences Ethics Committee.
RESULTS: Initial refinement of factors was guided by literature and interviews with clinicians and grouped into four broad categories: Clinical, Child and Family, Organisational, and Professional characteristics. Extensive iterative consultations with clinical and statistical experts, including analysis of cognitive interviews, identified best practice in terms of appropriate: inclusion and order of clinical content; cognitive load and number of factors; as well as language used to suit an international audience. The pilot study confirmed feasibility of the survey. The final survey comprised a 43-item online tool including two age-based sets of clinical vignettes, eight of which were randomly presented to each participant from a total vignette population of 480.
CONCLUSIONS: This paper clearly explains the processes involved in the development of a factorial survey for the online environment that is internationally appropriate, relevant, and useful to research an increasingly important subject in modern healthcare. This paper provides a framework for researchers to apply a factorial survey approach in wider health research, making this underutilised approach more accessible to a wider audience.