Randomized controlled trial (RCT) designs are standardized to control for bias and allow for replication. Conducting RCTs is generally straightforward when dealing with interventions that contain a single component, such as a drug. However, interventions that do not contain single components, such as a patient education programs, are more difficult to standardize, as they contain multiple elements, which may act independently or interdependently of each other. The purpose of this discursive clinical methods paper is to describe and explain a methodology that can be used to optimize the design of a complex intervention prior to its evaluation in a randomized control trial.
Fredericks, S. & Yau, T. (2014). Preparing for a randomized controlled trial: Strategies to optimize the design of a cardiovascular surgical patient education intervention. Applied Nursing Research.