Overcoming the Impossible: Pivoting to Meet the Needs of Family Physicians During COVID-19
An interview with Lindsay Bevan, MScHQ candidate, Project Manager, Primary Care Academic Detailing Service, Centre for Effective Practice
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
Tags: COVID-19, Detailing Visits, E-Detailing, International, Program Management
Anna: Hi Lindsay! Thanks for chatting with us today about the exciting work happening at Centre for Effective Practice (CEP) in Canada. Can you tell us about your role and share some highlights from your team’s recent work?
Lindsay: I’m the manager of the primary care academic detailing service at CEP. We have a provincial service, which started in March of 2018 that serves family physicians across Ontario. Prior to our current service, we have run services in long-term care to support appropriate prescribing as well as primary care to support diabetes management. Our current service is still growing, but we’ve served just over 880 family physicians to date. Our focus has mainly been around opioids and chronic pain. We were just about to launch a series of “visits” (campaign topics) on prescribing in older adults, but we quickly pivoted to meet the needs of family physicians and began working on a visit around managing primary care in the COVID-19 context.
Anna: It’s so important to understand and meet the needs of family physicians when it comes to academic detailing, especially during a tremendously stressful time. Can you tell us a little bit more about the COVID-19 visit and the process behind its launch?
Lindsay: Our provincial government declared a state of emergency in Ontario on March 17th, so we knew COVID-19 would be top of mind for our physicians and that they’d need more information. We also knew that we’d have to deliver the visits virtually, which was a fairly new territory for us.
We had to modify our usual content development and detailer “upskilling” (bringing detailers up to speed on the content, key messages, and evidence around the topic) processes in order to meet the demands of family physicians by getting them information around COVID-19 when they needed it. The content development process for our other visits typically takes six months, with the detailer upskilling taking the last month and a half of that six-month period. COVID-19 turned everything upside down and made us rethink what we assumed was impossible. Within two weeks of the declaration of emergency, we started pulling together content for our COVID-19 resource centre (clinical tool for this visit, which is also available to all primary care providers), one week later we started training our detailers and within a month, we were delivering virtual visits to family physicians.
Anna: It’s impressive how quickly your team was able to launch this visit. COVID-19 is different from other topics that your team has focused on because the information and guidelines are continuously changing. How has your program kept detailers up to date?
Lindsay: The detailer upskilling process for other visits includes weekly webinars to review key messages and the surrounding evidence, and a two day in-person workshop where detailers get to practice their visit discussions with each other and family physicians prior to launching visits. We also use a content development team for our detailing tools and bring those tools to the detailers to review when they’re about 90% complete. We typically don’t edit or change those tools after visits have begun.
For our COVID-19 visit however, the detailer upskilling weekly webinars and the content development for our ever-evolving online COVID-19 resource centre have been continuous, ongoing processes. Our detailers have also taken on a larger role within both processes. Each detailer has been responsible for searching for, appraising and synthesizing information on a specific sub-topic of COVID-19, and then submitting this information for inclusion in our resource centre as well as presenting it at our weekly webinars to their fellow detailers. Our detailers need to be up-to-date on the emerging and evolving evidence and jurisdictional guidance around COVID-19 because family physicians don’t have time to sort through all the information being made available to them daily during the outbreak.
Anna: It’s critical to provide physicians with the most up-to-date information, especially in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic where they’re bombarded with new recommendations and guidelines from multiple sources on a daily basis. How many COVID-related visits has your detailing service provided to physicians during this time?
Lindsay: We’ve had 95 initial visits to date and approximately 12% of those visits have been with physicians whom we’ve never detailed before. We’re just starting to reach back out to physicians to see if they would like a follow-up visit since evidence has evolved and challenges have changed since we first started. The initial conversations were focused on testing, assessing and managing patients with the virus, and we’re now seeing those conversations shift to focus on resuming primary care services within the COVID-19 context. The detailers have done an amazing job in transitioning their detailing conversations to ensure they’re always covering the emerging areas of interest and need for family physicians.
We’ve seen little to no requests from physicians for detailing visits on anything but COVID-19 or on maintaining care in the context of COVID-19, which speaks to the impact this topic has had on family physicians.
Anna: Wow – it’s amazing that your service has been able to detail so many physicians on COVID-19 while also recruiting new ones.
Lindsay: Yes, overall, the visits have been well-received. We were a bit more cautious with our approach to promoting our COVID-19 visit and recruiting new family physicians. We didn’t want to add to the current noise at this time.
Instead, we took a more passive but strategic approach, like adding a banner to our website where family physicians can quickly sign up for a visit, and having our partners share our visit and resource centre with their membership base. One of the neat things about this visit is that because we’re offering it virtually, we’re able to expand our geographical reach and provide our detailing service to more physicians.
Anna: Using a virtual platform certainly has its pros, especially within the world of academic detailing! What has your program’s experience been like with integrating e-Detailing into your service?
Lindsay: The transition wasn’t unsurmountable for our detailers because they are quick learners, and we’ve had a lot of support through the resources offered by NaRCAD and our partnership with the Canadian Academic Detailing Collaboration (CADC). We also did internal virtual training sessions with our detailers where they were able to practice using all the features of the Zoom videoconferencing platform. Overall, it’s been a positive learning experience, and one that has furthered our team’s ability to be adaptable and enhanced our problem-solving skills.
We do feel however that there’s been an impact on the detailer-physician relationship since we’ve transitioned to virtual detailing, especially for the 12% of family physicians who are new to our service. When a detailer is in a physician’s practice, they can see how busy a waiting room is or how stressed the staff appear to be. When family physicians join a virtual detailing visit, it’s much harder to gauge what kind of day they might be having and adjust the discussion accordingly. Furthermore, the act of going into a physician’s practice itself can create goodwill that helps establish and strengthen the detailer-physician relationship, and that opportunity is lost during virtual detailing.
Anna: That’s an excellent point. Observing the waiting room and interacting with office staff is also essential to a detailer’s needs assessment. Detailers lose this piece of a visit when the detailing is done virtually. Is virtual detailing something that CEP will continue doing once COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted?
Lindsay: Our detailers and family physicians would like to return to in-person visits. There seems to be some conversations that lend themselves better to virtual communication, and others for which an in-person presence offers greater value and impact. When it comes to relationship building, in-person interactions still offer something special.
We would also like to build off the momentum we’ve started with our virtual visits. We’re exploring the idea of offering virtual detailing to family physicians who would otherwise have their visit rescheduled due to extreme weather or to family physicians located where we don’t already have a detailer covering the area.
We’ve all done what we thought was impossible in providing the majority of healthcare visits virtually. I hope that folks across the healthcare system will continue to use that momentum moving forward to increase access to care.
Lindsay Bevan works for the Centre for Effective Practice (CEP) where she collaborates with a team of amazing individuals to develop and implement evidence-based supports and services to help narrow the gap between best evidence and care in Ontario. As a project manager, she oversees the planning and implementation of the CEP’s primary care academic detailing service, which serves family physicians across Ontario. Prior to joining CEP, Lindsay worked at the University Health Network in the infection prevention and control unit, where she updated internal infection control policies and developed patient and provider educational material. Lindsay is currently completing her Master of Science in Healthcare Quality at Queen’s University.
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