Assessment of Intervention Fidelity and Recommendations for Researchers Conducting Studies on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Cough in the Adult: CHEST Guideline and Expert Panel Report

Cynthia T French, Rebecca L Diekemper, Richard S Irwin, CHEST Expert Cough Panel, Lorcan McGarvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Successful management of chronic cough has varied in the primary research studies in the reported literature. One of the potential reasons relates to a lack of intervention fidelity to the core elements of the diagnostic and/or therapeutic interventions that were meant to be used by the investigators.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic review to summarize the evidence supporting intervention fidelity as an important methodologic consideration in assessing the effectiveness of clinical practice guidelines used for the diagnosis and management of chronic cough. We developed and used a tool to assess for five areas of intervention fidelity. Medline (PubMed), Scopus, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched from January 1998 to May 2014. Guideline recommendations and suggestions for those conducting research using guidelines or protocols to diagnose and manage chronic cough in the adult were developed and voted upon using CHEST Organization methodology.

RESULTS: A total of 23 studies (17 uncontrolled prospective observational, two randomized controlled, and four retrospective observational) met our inclusion criteria. These articles included 3,636 patients. Data could not be pooled for meta-analysis because of heterogeneity. Findings related to the five areas of intervention fidelity included three areas primarily related to the provider and two primarily related to the patients. In the area of study design, 11 of 23 studies appeared to be underpinned by a single guideline/protocol; for training of providers, two of 23 studies reported training, and zero of 23 reported the use of an intervention manual; and for the area of delivery of treatment, when assessing the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease, three of 23 studies appeared consistent with the most recent guideline/protocol referenced by the authors. For receipt of treatment, zero of 23 studies mentioned measuring concordance of patient-interventionist understanding of the treatment recommended, and zero of 23 mentioned measuring enactment of treatment, with three of 23 measuring side effects and two of 23 measuring adherence. The overall average intervention fidelity score for all 23 studies was poor (20.74 out of 48).

CONCLUSIONS: Only low-quality evidence supports that intervention fidelity strategies were used when conducting primary research in diagnosing and managing chronic cough in adults. This supports the contention that some of the variability in the reporting of patients with unexplained or unresolved chronic cough may be due to lack of intervention fidelity. By following the recommendations and suggestions in this article, researchers will likely be better able to incorporate strategies to address intervention fidelity, thereby strengthening the validity and generalizability of their results that provide the basis for the development of trustworthy guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-54
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment (Health Care)
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Research Design


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