NaRCAD's Interview Series: Public Health Detailing Program at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH)
Featuring Michelle Dresser, MPH, Senior Manager, Programming & Strategy
Thanks for taking the time to share the great clinical outreach education work that’s being done by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Michelle! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in public health, specifically public health detailing.
Michelle: Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the Public Health Detailing Program. I have over 20 years of public health experience in both the non-profit and government setting, with the last 12 here at the New York City DOHMH. Throughout my professional career, my specialty has been in healthcare marketing and provider education, emphasizing how providers and consumers can better communicate with each other by tailoring complex messages using health literacy principles.
It’s essential our reps have excellent selling and communications skills, so when they engage providers and get their buy-in, providers are then equipped to get their patients “on board”. One-on-one provider engagement helps them understand how important it is to have a 2-way communication with patients.
How can an outreach representative encourage providers to “get on board” and think about care as a dialogue?
Michelle: Let’s use obesity as an example. With obesity, both providers and patients are frustrated, for different reasons. Providers may be frustrated that patients’ comorbid conditions are being exacerbated or don’t have the same kinds of tools to treat obesity as they do other conditions; patients might feel that providers aren’t using great communication techniques, like motivational interviewing (MI), to help them set goals and take small steps towards the goal.
If a patient is only told, “You need to lose weight,” which is such a broad and overarching goal, they’ll be frustrated, and frankly, non-adherent. I know I would be.
Encouraging providers to have specific dialogues using a customized approach for each patient is important. This kind of dialogue takes into account patients’ literacy beyond the written and spoken word—it looks at scientific, fundamental, health and cultural literacy, too.
We work on “coaching scripts”, which take the key recommendations and reframes them in order to custom-tailor the conversation for each patient.
One thing that’s unique about public health detailing is that we detail the whole team through one-on-one interactions. Evidence shows these types of interactions with providers and staff are more effective at changing behavior; however, sometimes due to the makeup of the practice we must conduct group presentations. It’s not ideal, but it still allows us to get the messages and materials out there.
So when an outreach representative goes into an office, they detail...everyone?
Michelle: If there are 15 people who work in an office, we’re going to detail all 15 of them. It’s a lot! Sometimes, the person who is the champion of a new behavior or workflow isn’t going to be the provider. We see the front desk staff as instrumental; they’re interacting with all of the patients. We work with our teams to ensure even the front desk staff receives the materials and information, rather than seeing them merely as a “gatekeeper” to get to the providers.
Sounds like a lot of training goes into preparing for your campaigns, and for thinking about the entire process of effective outreach. Tell us more about your trainings, and about how you prepare outreach representatives on disease content training, as well as in marketing and communications skills.
Michelle: On average, our trainings are about 5 days in length and take place the week prior to launching a new campaign. About 40 percent of the training is disease content, so we work with our internal Health Department experts, as well as external experts, where we learn about prevention strategies, treatment strategies, epidemiology and the landscape around the key recommendations chosen based on the evidence of that topic. We need to know the ‘why’ behind the campaign.
Once we have that under our belt, we shift to sessions on how to frame the issue, how to promote the materials, figuring out the “features and benefits” as well as the “barriers and objections” and finally “gaining a commitment”, which are phrases that come from pharmaceutical marketing. We’re “selling” and promoting public health interactions, so we work on those skills.
We also do a great deal of role playing, including videotaped analysis of each rep. We look at body language, what communication skills are effective, we do knowledge assessments, quizzes—we make sure our team is well-prepared to go out and detail. We take this seriously—they’re representing the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
What’s a major barrier your program has faced, and how have you tackled it?
Michelle: A big challenge, when starting a detailing program, is access. The landscape of healthcare systems in NYC has drastically changed over the past few years. As an example, several years ago, the majority of our Brooklyn territory was almost entirely made of up of small practices where access wasn’t an issue.
What’s changed since then?
Michelle: Now, many of these sites have become part of larger institutions, so there’s corporate buy-in that needs to happen for people to come in and talk to the staff. As I mentioned before, although we try and limit group presentations, this has proven to be an effective strategy when entering into a new relationship. Once they get to know us and recognize the value of the program, they’re engaged in having us come back to conduct 1:1 visits on the follow-up and subsequent campaigns.
How do you know when a campaign is working and becoming successful?
Michelle: Evaluation is always on the top of our priorities, and can be a challenge for any program to evaluate effectiveness. For every campaign we conduct an initial and follow-up visit where we assess provider practice.
This allows us to see if there has been a change in practice from the initial to the follow-up visit. Additionally, we rate what providers intend to adopt in terms of the key recommendations and supporting tools and resources. We also collect a large amount of qualitative data because it's also critical to gaining a more complete picture of the campaign’s success, especially when reporting on barriers, access and materials.
You can scale this up or down, depending on your need and organizational priorities. Our program focuses on where there’s the greatest need and potential for greatest impact.
Programs should make sure to look at their organization’s agenda and goals. It’s important to look at the data and plan the best course of action within the capacity you have.
Biography: Michelle Dresser. Michelle Dresser is the Senior Manager of Programming and Strategy for the Public Health Detailing Program within the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In this role, she oversees the overall programmatic direction and strategy of the program. This includes, campaign strategy and timing, campaign content, training and economic incentive development, provider selection, identification of targets to ensure the greatest impact on populations most in need, and identification of “new needs” opportunities to expand program reach and achievement of program goals. She also oversees internal and external strategic relationships to enhance programmatic objectives.
An Interview with Mass Mental Health Center
Featuring Mark Viron, MD, adult psychiatrist & Director of Health Home Services at the Department of Mental Health’s Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC) in Boston; Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.
NaRCAD: We’re excited to talk about your program because it focuses on such an important population, and such a specific topic that’s been a focus of public health initiatives across the nation. Tell us about Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC).
Mark Viron: MMHC is a Department of Mental Health (DMH) community mental health center in Boston that has provided mental health services for over 100 years to people with chronic and persistent mental illness. Its ultimate goal is to help people maintain meaningful and productive lives in their community. In 2013, to better address the significant unmet primary care needs of our patients, we launched the Wellness and Recovery Medicine (WaRM) Center. The WaRM Center offers co-located and integrated wellness and primary care services for all MMHC patients.
NaRCAD: Why, historically, have rates of tobacco use been higher in folks with serious mental illness (SMI)? Why has there been resistance for clinicians to promote tobacco cessation for this group?
Mark: It’s a complicated issue. There are risk factors that increase the rate of smoking in this group and these are coupled with obstacles to getting appropriate treatment. People with SMI are overrepresented among populations that face social and environmental conditions that are typically associated with an increased prevalence of smoking – poverty, unemployment, limited education, etc. Obstacles to quitting include limited availability of resources, lack of clinician involvement, and poor social/peer support.
NaRCAD: Agreed! What do these AD-focused, 1:1 visits between trained physician educators and psychiatric prescribers entail?
Mark: The visits are 20-30 minutes long and follow the typical detailing visit structure. Visits are conducted by me, a psychiatrist at MMHC, or Gail Levine, MD, an internist and the Medical Director of our primary care clinic.
We meet with the prescribers in their offices, and begin by asking open-ended questions to assess their needs and learn about their successes (and challenges) in addressing tobacco use with their patients. We celebrate successes and validate challenges, and then pivot to sharing evidence-based information and key messages that may help them address these issues with greater success. We conclude the visit by reviewing steps the prescriber can take to increase successful tobacco treatment, and provide a copy of our detail aid, along with a few high-yield references.
A key ingredient to our success has been our detail aid. A great psychiatry resident (now attending), Kathryn Zioto, worked with Gail and me and the NaRCAD team to develop a detail aid about tobacco treatment in people with serious mental illness.
The detail aid contains cutting-edge, evidence-based information in clear language with colorful graphics. It includes information about the MMHC’S Smoke Free Team, and highlights our three “asks”, which helps clinicians frame their conversations with patients:
NaRCAD: We enjoyed working on this important project with you, and we know how important great materials are in engaging clinicians to consider behavior change. That said, how have psychiatric prescribers been responding?
Mark: The response has been quite favorable. It's been rewarding to sit down with colleagues and learn from their experience and expertise and to be able to offer some useful information about tobacco treatment and the Smoke Free Program. The one-on-one detailing encounters, even as brief as they are, give us quality time with our colleagues to focus on their individual concerns and questions. We probably get as much information as we give!
NaRCAD: Two members of your team, yourself and Gail Levine, attended our AD Techniques Training in 2015 to prepare for this initiative. How has the training helped you provide this education to prescribers?
Mark: Your training gave us an in-depth immersion into the world of academic detailing, helping us understand theories and evidence and think about implementation issues. Getting to practice detailing and getting feedback from experts in the field was invaluable, as was the ability to talk with people from around the country who are working on similar projects. NaRCAD's training is incredibly worthwhile – it was compact, comprehensive, and helped us acquire the needed skills to implement this project successfully.
Provider education, engagement and activation are key, and AD provides a framework that has a proven track record in producing results in these areas. Plus, AD is efficient and easily implemented relative to other interventions--especially when you have assistance from NaRCAD!
NaRCAD: Thanks for taking the time to connect with us. We’ve enjoyed helping to support this initiative with training and materials development! We look forward to continuing to learn about the impact you have on improving the health of people with serious mental illness, and sharing it with the community. We can't wait to hear more about this intervention at our conference this fall!
Biography. Mark Viron, MD is an adult psychiatrist and Director of Health Home Services at the Department of Mental Health’s Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC) in Boston and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. He specializes in the treatment of psychotic disorders and the integration of primary and behavioral healthcare for people with serious mental illness.
He graduated from Tulane University School of Medicine and completed his psychiatry residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Residency Program. He serves as an attending at MMHC’s partial hospital program, where he teaches and trains residents and medical students. He is also the project director for two grant-funded initiatives that aim to enhance MMHC’s ability to provide integrated primary and behavioral healthcare.
NaRCAD: Hi, Meagan and Mindy—thanks for taking the time to talk with us about your clinical outreach education programming at Colorado ABCD. Can you give us an overview about ABCD and its mission to improve child development?
Meagan Shallcross: Colorado Assuring Better Child Health & Development (ABCD) works with community partners, pediatric healthcare providers, early learning providers, and families across Colorado communities. The goal is to strengthen systems and identify children with developmental delays, connecting them with community services as early as possible.
NaRCAD: Tell us a bit about your backgrounds. How did you each get into healthcare improvement?
Meagan: My background in public health, along with experience working in clinical settings and behavioral science research, developed my interest in healthcare improvement that aims to bridge community work and clinical practice, standardize clinical workflows, and ultimately improve experiences and outcomes for patients and families
Mindy Craig: My path to healthcare improvement is a little different than what you might expect. I worked for Northwest Airlines as a flight attendant for several years straight out of college. At that time the airline industry was losing a large amount of money and needed to find a new way of operating. They decided to utilize a Total Quality Management approach and enlisted people from every department to undergo training in TQM and then facilitate small departmental groups in quality efforts. It was through this process that I began to understand the importance of doing business with a quality framework.
Eventually, I left Northwest and started working in a Neurology clinic while going back to school with the goal of becoming a PA. After completing my degree I worked in primary care settings for about 10 years. I participated in small clinic QI efforts over the years and continued to be interested in quality improvement.
I was hired by ABCD 8 years ago to bring a clinical perspective to their physician outreach. It was a natural progression for me to start approaching our work at ABCD with a quality improvement framework. The power of engaging front line staff to implement changes that result in improvement remains as strong as it was when I worked in the airline industry.
NaRCAD: Talk with us about your academic detailing programming at ABCD—you’ve been doing this for about 10 years, right?
Mindy: We started our work encouraging the use of standardized developmental screening tools in the primary care settings. This was supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement in 2006 recommending the use of these tools at well child visits. We offered informal outreach to physicians providing instructions on screening tools, billing information, AAP recommendations and information on referral resources.
We quickly recognized that screening alone wasn’t sufficient and began talking about the referral process and how to ensure successful referrals were being made. At around this time, research was showing us that only about 50% of children referred for Early Intervention services were actually connecting to that referral. It was easy to identify children with concerns but not as easy to ensure they received needed support.
We decided to try formalizing our approach to outreach by offering Continuing Medical Education [CME] credits. While we didn’t change content, offering CME changed the way providers saw us as detailers. We appreciated the new credibility, but still struggled with recruiting new practices.
NaRCAD: Recruiting practices to participate is a challenge for many programs. How did this struggle transform into quality improvement?
We now offer Quality Improvement [QI] and MOC projects for implementing developmental screening, autism screening and postpartum depression screening in addition to a project that aims to increase the percentage of children who successfully connect with Early Intervention when referred from their primary care provider. We have been thrilled with the response from physicians for participating in these projects and just received funding to continue and grow our outreach efforts.
NaRCAD: What have been some other challenges you’ve faced when going in to talk to clinicians about implementing developmental screening?
Mindy: I started working at ABCD unsure of how to provide physician outreach, so I naturally modeled my efforts on the one successful approach I knew very well, which was pharmaceutical sales. As the recipient of pharmaceutical detailing, it was pretty easy to begin my outreach efforts in a similar fashion. I quickly learned how it feels to be a detailer. Front office staff rejected me repeatedly, I made hundreds of phone calls that didn’t get returned, and when I did get to speak to a provider I had to speak quickly and to the point to keep their attention. The challenge of gaining access was the biggest barrier I confronted early on and remains at the top of the list.
NaRCAD: When dealing with those challenges, what’s helped you to build relationships with clinicians in order to gain commitment?
Meagan: To deal with the challenges that arise, we have found that it helps to get creative in our approach to gain access to clinicians and add credibility to our messages. A barrier we have encountered when trying to schedule times to meet with clinicians is the expectation that we will provide food. Our funders and budgets do not allow us to pay for food, so we have opted to provide other incentives for clinicians, such as CME or MOC credit. Not only is offering CME/MOC credits an educational incentive for providers, but it lends credibility to our messages. We facilitate our QI projects through multiple meetings at the practice and have found that, by developing relationships and a presence in the office, we can overcome clinicians’ resistance to implementing screening or other changes in their practice.
NaRCAD: We were happy to see you at our 3rd International Conference on Academic Detailing here in Boston a few months ago. Tell us more about how the conference helped you think about your work in a different way.
Mindy: We were thrilled to be able to attend the conference and came away very energized. We highly recommend the conference to anyone doing similar work. Some of our key “take-aways” were around the fundamentals of academic detailing, including the need for profession materials and repeated visits to develop relationships. We came home committed to find money for developing professional materials and to attend the two-day intensive training offered by NaRCAD.
However, I’ve struggled with our role as a non-profit in meeting these needs. Up to this point, ABCD has utilized a very hands-on approach. We plan meetings, take notes, write up PDSA cycles, make “To Do” lists – anything we can do to make the process easy for the practice and allow the providers to concentrate on patient care. A true practice facilitation model is more concerned with increasing the capacity of the practice to continue quality improvement work after the facilitation had ended. The goal isn’t to do all the work, but to help the practice find capacity to do it themselves.
NaRCAD: What other advice would give to a new and emerging AD program that’s just getting started, or that you’d give yourself if you could go back in time 10 years?
Meagan: We have found NaRCAD’s training and tips to be very helpful, so we would recommend that new clinical educators attend a NaRCAD techniques training to hone their skills in communicating their messages with clinicians and gaining commitment to behavior change. One of our main takeaways from the NaRCAD conference was the importance of high-quality, professional materials, so we would recommend that new programs budget for the development of professional materials as well as food, which can be an incentive when setting up meetings with clinicians.
Over the years, we’ve realized how critical it is to work with community partners before going into healthcare practices to ensure that clinical workflows, such as processes for making referrals to external agencies, are aligned with community-defined processes and so that clinicians are aware of the resources available to patients and families in their communities.
NaRCAD: Thanks so much for sharing important insights from your program to improve childhood health outcomes. We look forward to seeing you at a future training and hearing more about your program's future successes!
Mindy Craig, PA-C, M.S., Director of Physician Outreach, has been with the ABCD team for 8 years and brings with her experience in the clinical setting. She earned her physician assistant degree at the University of Colorado Health Science Center’s Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant program in May 2000. Concurrently, she completed additional course work and research to earn her Master of Science degree in Pediatrics. Ms. Craig worked as a physician assistant in a number of settings for ten years prior to joining the ABCD team. Her medical career has included a variety of medical office positions from medical records clerk to practice manager. This range of experience positions her to fully understand the unique dynamics and flow in a typical office, which allows her to deliver technical assistance to practices at a meaningful level.
Ms. Craig’s quality improvement experience began in the business sector where she was extensively trained on Total Quality Management (TQM) at Northwest Airlines. She worked at the airline as a facilitator, training inflight and ground personnel in the principles of quality improvement. This experience with quality continued in the clinical setting, as she has participated in and/or chaired a number of quality improvement projects over her career as a physician assistant. In addition to her work at ABCD, Ms. Craig also does consulting work for organizations needing assistance with physician outreach and education.
Meagan Shallcross, MPH, Healthy Steps/Physician Outreach Coordinator, joined the ABCD team in June 2015 as the Healthy Steps and Physician Outreach Coordinator. Meagan is passionate about building systems and environments that support children’s healthy development through clinical-community partnerships and integrated care delivery approaches. Meagan earned a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Michigan, where she supported Patient and Family Centered Care projects at the university health system and was involved with community-based participatory research addressing health equity, as well as research focused on provider-patient communication.
Learn more at www.coloradoabcd.org. All photos used with permission.
Behind the Scenes with Dr. Doyle-Tadduni, NaRCAD Training Facilitator
Editor’s note: In this series, DETAILS asks Academic Detailing (AD) Techniques Training facilitators how they lead by example, challenge participants, and ensure that trainees are ready to go out into the field. Dr. Doyle-Tadduni focused on her insights and tips to success in providing excellent clinical education by building strong detailer-to-clinician relationships based on evidence, clarity, and “intrinsic trust.”
NaRCAD: Hi, Mary Liz! We’re looking forward to learning more from you about what it’s like to train prospective academic detailers. But first, tell us a little about how you became involved in detailing.
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: I began working as an academic detailer about 10 years ago in Pennsylvania with the Independent Drug Information Service, which is sponsored by PACE (Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly). My clinical background in nursing and my teaching background within various university settings has served me well in this role as a clinical educator.
NaRCAD: What does a day of academic detailing look like for you? What successes and challenges do you see?
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: My territory encompasses the westerns suburbs of Philadelphia where I visit physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. I see these providers in a variety of settings, including private practices, university-affiliated practices, and outpatient health care systems.
Since AD is a new concept to many practitioners, it’s essential to start your visit by educating providers about the importance of academic detailing and how it will benefit them and their patients. In this way, I’ve developed many long-standing relationships with providers who have said that AD has been very beneficial for their individual practices. It’s very gratifying in a follow-up appointment to hear that a provider has taken the evidence you provided and put it into practice, creating a positive outcome for patients.
NaRCAD: How do you build strong relationships with the clinicians you visit?
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: There needs to be an intrinsic sense of trust between a detailer and the provider. You may not gain the trust in the relationship during your initial visits, but when you provide clinicians with a full understanding of the importance of your visit, along with presenting educational materials that are credible and evidence-based, you promote trust and strengthen the relationship and gain clinician commitment to changing behavior for the better.
NaRCAD: You’ve facilitated quite a few trainings with us at NaRCAD. Tell us more about the course, and why you enjoy doing it.
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: This course is a great support for both new and seasoned trainees in enhancing their detailing skills, as well as program managers who oversee a clinical education program and need a greater understanding of how best to run an effective program. At the beginning of the training, the trainees absorb AD theoretical content and techniques, and on Day 2, they’re actively practicing the techniques and role playing different educational encounters in small groups.
The program trainees have been wonderful people to meet! I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the United States, and some from Australia, Portugal, and Europe. It’s been very interesting being involved with the trainings and hearing about health care in other regions of the US and abroad. Despite the miles that separate all of us in our different demographics, we all have similar challenges in our respective health care systems.
NaRCAD: As a trainer, you “play” the role of the clinicians during breakout group sessions, presenting different personalities as well as various behavioral and content-based objections to the material or the visit. Tell us more about this part of the course.
Mary Liz practices with a trainee, teaching the importance of showcasing AD as a service that will create better outcomes for clinicians’ practices and patients.
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: We present the trainees with many different role play scenarios where they can actively practice overcoming obstacles that get in the way of earning clinician commitment. Finding the right delivery of your messaging can be very challenging, depending on the environment, and every detailer will have a unique set of potential obstacles to face at each visit.
The key is to focus on the evidence, so that practitioners can realize how beneficial it will be to their practice. The training’s small group role play practice sessions provides trainees ample opportunity to practice, ask questions, perfect their skills, and be prepared to face inevitable obstacles in their own future visits.
NaRCAD: What do NaRCAD trainees need to have to be ready to succeed as a detailer? How does our 2-day training help to get them ready for success?
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: The trainees need to have an expert knowledge base of the clinical topic and related materials they’ll be presenting during a visit. They also need to present AD as an on-going resource. With busy practitioners being so tightly scheduled through the day, programs designed to assist them in improving how their practice runs is a plus. By the end of the two days of training, the trainees will have a strong foundation of clinical education techniques, and they’ll be forming ideas about implementing these efforts in their respective programs.
NaRCAD: Any closing thoughts or advice for new trainees, or first time detailers as they prepare to head into the field?
As long as you’re well-versed on the material you’re delivering, and you’re presenting yourself as an “ambassador of the evidence”, you’ll have the tools you need to ensure that an academic detailing visit is truly successful.
Highlighting Best Practices
We highlight what's working in clinical education through interviews, features, event recaps, and guest blogs, offering clinical educators the chance to share successes and lessons learned from around the country & beyond.