An interview with Megan DeNubila, Provider Relations Manager, and Jessica Alward, academic detailer, from the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control with the State of New Hampshire. Their mission is to improve public health by promoting evidence-based practices in the areas of infection prevention, screening, testing, and management for HIV, TB, STD/STIs, and Hepatitis.
by Winnie Ho, Program Coordinator
Winnie: Thank you both again for joining us today! In one of our past technical assistance discussions together, we’ve gone into depth about some common clinician stigma and barriers. In particular, you shared with us that because New Hampshire was a lower incidence state for HIV, you would encounter clinicians who felt that that particular issue didn’t really fall within their patient population. It’s a common barrier we hear from many detailing programs, whether they address opioid use disorder (OUD) or infectious diseases. Can you go into more depth about your experiences with this phenomenon, and how you’ve addressed it?
Megan: Providers are extremely busy, and they’re often expected to be an expert on so many topics. Our program helps bring providers filter through new information so they can start to bring it up with their patients. By walking them through the best practices, the recommendations, and local and state-specific data, we can show them that it’s something that is impacting their patient population. In addition, one of the things that stuck with me from the NaRCAD training we attended was that because there’s so much new information, providers would be expected to read up to 17 papers a day just to stay current. Something like HIV would be one of many things that providers are concerned with on a daily basis. Our job is to help bring the most relevant and evidence-based information to the surface for them and their patients.
Jess: Megan is completely right on this! I’m in provider offices a lot. What I hear is that they often feel like they are just treading water and not able to keep up with new information. What we try to do is bring that info to them in a way that doesn’t feel like just one more thing to squeeze into a day. When we talk to them about stigma, we don’t want to start there. We want to start with some easy and really useful information and tools that will make their job easier. By doing that work first, they feel like the precious time they are giving to us is worth it. After a couple visits, emails, or phone connections have happened that is the time to bring up new approaches and topics.
Winnie: I really appreciate that your lens on this barrier embodies a ‘How do we best support you?’ attitude. The goal of academic detailing is to navigate and close knowledge gaps in hopes of changing clinician behavior. Sharing knowledge and having difficult conversations is our best tools to address clinician stigma and discomfort. It’s not a battle against them and certainly the goal isn’t to shame clinicians. This is a collaborative operation to improve health outcomes.
Megan: Right, in the end, our mission is to close health inequities altogether. If I were a clinician and was not super comfortable or familiar with best practices for preventing HIV, then I might feel a high level of hesitation trying to broach something like taking a sexual history from my patient. But if it’s something that I get more comfortable with, I’m more likely to bring it up and ask the right questions.
Ultimately, we’re trying to build a relationship with the provider so they see us as a resource when a new practice, tool, or clinical guideline comes out. They can then use those tools and information to address stigma that a patient may be experiencing. Providers constantly have new information and guidelines thrown at them, and we would like to help make it easier for them to take that information and apply it in their daily work.
Jess: Whenever I address something uncomfortable with a provider, stigma or otherwise, I try to create an environment where we can work collaboratively on the issue and the provider feels as though I am a resource for them. I will say something like, ‘the last we talked, you mentioned this to me and it really got me thinking….” Or “I was talking with a colleague the other day about….” Then I will find a way to circle back around to the original topic. By approaching the topic in this manner allows them to feel we are a partner and have a shared goal.
Winnie: I want to circle back to your team’s mission of addressing health inequities. Inequity is the core of why we discuss things like stigma and discomfort. We need to approach clinician stigma with a human approach, but we also need to address the very real impact that it can have on patient health outcomes.
Megan: In a mostly rural state like New Hampshire, healthcare access is limited to begin with, and clinician stigma could drive patients who need help to either forego care or have to travel very far to seek care that they are comfortable with. We know providers want the best outcomes for their patients, and through detailing, we want to help the providers achieve those outcomes. Looking at potential stigma is one of the keys to making sure we address health inequities.
Winnie: A lot of these experiences about clinician stigma are anecdotal, but as you just outlined, they have a very real impact on health outcomes. From our previous call, we have discussed and imagined a tracking tool for these encounters with clinician stigma and barriers. What would you find useful about a tracking tool like this, and what would you hope to learn from the data?
Megan: A tracking tool would help us better understand and represent the stigmatic responses that are out there. It would help us focus our efforts to help a provider address stigma in their practice. Anecdotes are helpful, but it can be hard to grasp. We don’t want to make decisions by theorizing what patients are experiencing. As a small state program with limited resources, this would help us optimize our response and to make sure we’re heading in the right direction by seeing if stigmatic behaviors change.
Winnie: It would be extremely exciting to see a tool like this become available and specialized for the hundreds of detailers who do this work.
Megan: Yes, it’s a theoretical tool at the moment, but we were in discussions prior to COVID-19 about how to develop it. It would be amazing to see programs collaborate on something like this. I can only imagine how much further we’ll go with that as a resource.
Megan DeNubila is the Provider Relations Manager for the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services. She has been leading the Public Health Education and Detailing team since August of 2018. Megan has over 8 years of public health experience in capacity building, coalition development, and community health. She earned her Master of Public Health degree from the Boston University School of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health in 2016/2017 and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Health: Science, Society and Policy from Brandeis University in 2012.
Jessica Alward is married to Scott and mom to two grown sons. She has been with the State of New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services for almost two years and recently earned her MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. With a background in education and training, she works full time as an academic detailer all over the state. In her spare time she enjoys directing community theatre productions, running and hiking.
An interview with Nadejda Razi-Robertson, PhD, LCSW, Managing Director, Synergy Health Consulting and Andrew Suchocki , MD, MPH, Medical Director, Clackamas Health Centers
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
Anna: Thank you Nadejda and Andrew for spending time with us today to discuss the impressive work being done in your leadership roles around practice transformation at Synergy Health Consulting. Can you tell us a little bit about Synergy and its impact on opioid safety-related care improvement?
Nadejda: Our team works with health systems across the state of Oregon. Our first phase of work started several years ago when we were largely focused on helping systems implement the CDC guidelines around opioid safety. Our work has since evolved, and we’re now focused on helping clinicians develop medication-assisted treatment programs, integrate behavioral health into primary care, and address the opioid epidemic at the community level.
We often use academic detailing as one of the many tools in our toolbox when we work with different health systems on opioid safety. We take the basic concepts, such as conducting a needs assessment and identifying clinician barriers, from the traditional model of a detailing visit, and implement them on a larger scale.
Andrew: Many members of our team are practicing healthcare professionals in the field, which roots a lot of our work at Synergy. I take what I’m seeing on the ground as both an administrator and a provider at a busy clinical practice and incorporate those experiences into my work at Synergy.
Anna: It’s so important to build teams where members have varied expertise and professional training when working together on practice transformation. How have you incorporated academic detailing strategies into the work being done at Synergy, and how has it been received?
Andrew: Some of the academic detailing work I’ve done has been with providers who need extra support from a peer, or from someone else working in the field. When it comes to opioids, chronic pain, and addictions in primary care, there’s a tremendous amount of stigma and information that was accurate at one time, but as we’ve shifted as a society, many primary care providers are yet to catch up.
Stigma isn’t something that folks are actively choosing, it’s more of what they’ve been taught. Changing that culture of practice is much more difficult compared to asking prescribers to prescribe cholesterol-lowering therapy. There’s very little societal baggage when it comes to improving cholesterol than there is when it comes to destigmatizing addictions or chronic pain.
Nadejda: We use the same fundamental approach when working with systems, clinics, or individuals. We start with a needs assessment, provide a group training based on those needs, and follow that up with 1:1 academic detailing visits to address barriers, provide materials, and explore personal bias that may be getting in the way of providing treatment.
I’m currently working to schedule a training for several providers in a rural county in Oregon. A number of those providers are X waivered (allowing them to prescribe medication therapy for patients with opioid use disorder), but they aren’t using their X waivers to prescribe buprenorphine. A needs assessment will provide me with a better understanding of what the challenges and barriers are, what is working well, and where there may be bias, stigma, or gaps in knowledge. We also use the needs assessment as a “listening session” that creates a sense of safety, fosters an experience that participants are being heard, and serves to “normalize” experiences across settings and practitioners. This process is also strategic in that it helps us understand where to focus our educational outreach and academic detailing efforts.
The more we are doing this work, the more we are finding that this approach is effective in getting care teams, medical providers, and service providers across many sectors into increased “philosophical alignment” which is critical to effectively foster culture change around issues of pain, addiction, and trauma.
Anna: Bias, stigma, and gaps in knowledge around chronic pain and addiction are common, especially in primary care. We’ve found that many detailers have been successful in helping providers “catch up” to society and overcome personal bias through their detailing visits. Speaking of detailing visits, face-to-face visits have clearly been impacted by COVID-19. Can you tell us more about other ways that COVID-19 has impacted the work at Synergy?
Nadejda: Again, we’ve gone back to the wisdom of the original academic detailing model. The needs of each setting have changed significantly, and we’ve been pivoting our work to meet those needs. Providers want to know how to best support their patients who are dealing with pain during this time. One thing we were able to provide early in the pandemic was a list of recommendations and resources around pain management for both providers and patients.
Andrew: We saw the need to adapt to massive changes related to COVID-19, and to do so essentially overnight. We’ve had questions about conducting urine drug screenings, initiating treatment over the phone, and maintaining the patient-clinician relationship.
There’s also a shared vulnerability among providers and patients when visits are conducted virtually. Our patients have had requests for increased medication use, which is understandable because they’re not able to do activities that they’ve typically been able to do to keep themselves resilient. That conversation is a difficult one - in some ways it is easier because you don’t have to see someone in person, but it also makes for a very ineffective conversation because you’re not able to demonstrate your humanity through body language. Our team is struggling to wrap our head around this as we try to provide leadership and guide clinicians who are looking to us, or our state, for collective ideas around this field and how we practice.
Anna: COVID-19 has certainly impacted the way we think about responding to changing needs for those who are trying to manage their pain. Can you tell us about some of the other major changes you’ve seen in pain management over the past few years?
Andrew: The biggest thing I’ve seen is insurance expansion. We’ve known for years what you need to have effective pain management and how important it is to shift the idea of living with pain and accepting pain versus eliminating pain. We’ve seen Medicaid expansion and expansion of benefits, especially in the Northwest, that has given patients access to modalities that are effective for safer pain management.
Historically, things we knew that worked like, gym memberships, physical therapy, occupational therapy, mindfulness, and chronic pain groups, were never paid for or weren’t available. As society has changed how it believes pain should be managed, we’ve started to see the insurance side supporting these modalities more. There’s also been heavy reporting on the opioid crisis in the media that has led patients to understand that opioids have risks.
Nadejda: We’ve continued to grow and learn as a team over the past several years. Our entry point into communication around chronic pain and pain management has continued to be centered around assessing if patients and their care teams have an understanding about how pain works. We want to make sure that clinicians have the proper training and are up-to-date on evidence and resources.
Andrew: We’ve known some of this information about pain management and how pain works for a while, but it takes many years to take what we know from as a research perspective and translate it into practice. One of our roles at Synergy is to accelerate that. We’re seeing our evolution as a group mimic and reflect the experience we’re having as a culture as we start to dial in to the most effective ways to manage pain.
Anna: As Synergy continues to respond to changing societal needs around pain management, what insights can you share about the impact of academic detailing to date?
Andrew: One thing I’ve learned about academic detailing is that it’s only as effective as your intervention across an entire system. I’ve realized that any work that I’m doing is irrelevant unless I’m addressing the entire system and the culture. If the front desk staff isn’t on board, if the medical assistant isn’t a believer, if the nurse doesn’t understand addiction, if the CEO doesn’t understand that the health system is already treating these patients, there will be challenges that will be harder to overcome.
Nadejda: Because academic detailing has been an arm of a larger change approach we’re using, it’s hard to measure its effects. We don’t have data to show that only detailing has moved the needle around these topics in these ways. Sometimes I see academic detailing as the “cherry on top” after there’s a lot of work that’s been done in prepping a system. I’ve recently been doing practice facilitation work with providers and clinics just to understand the barriers in a system—there’s an art to the change process in the pain management space. Academic detailing comes in after you’ve truly understood what the barriers are. After you understand the barriers, you can bring in nuggets of evidence and information in a way that the system is ready to receive.
Nadejda Razi-Robertson is the Managing Director of Synergy Health Consulting, as well as Synergy’s project lead for the Oregon Health Authority’s Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Project. Nadejda is a practice facilitator within health systems around the State of Oregon and provides technical assistance to clinics that are focusing QI efforts around safe opiate prescribing, MAT program development, and behavioral health integration. Over the past twelve years, she has worked in private practice with a specialty in trauma treatment, as a behavioral health provider in two Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and as a consultant with Oregon’s Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) and the Oregon Health Authority supporting efforts in addressing the opioid epidemic throughout the state of Oregon.
Dr. Andrew Suchocki is a family physician with additional training in Preventive Medicine. He has worked in underserved medicine with a focus on chronic pain and addiction for ten years, and has been a medical director at an FQHC in the Portland, Oregon region for the past five. Andrew provides educational outreach and consultation in the areas of system change in primary care around opiate prescribing, MAT system design and capacity growth, coordinated specialty care, and reducing risk. Dr. Suchocki is an Oregon Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Task Force member and Oregon Medical Board consultant. He provides technical support and academic detailing for the Oregon Psychiatric Assistance Line (OPAL) which provides immediate referral sources for primary care. Dr. Suchocki also provides strategic planning, creation of innovative clinical decision support tools, physician mentoring, and health system process mapping for Yamhill County Health and Human Services, Community Corrections and Specialty Behavioral Health. He is a regular presenter at national and international pain related conferences.
An interview with Sarah Ball, PharmD, Research Assistant Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina and Megan Pruitt, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacy Consultant, SCORxE Academic Detailing Service and Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
Anna: Hi Sarah and Megan- thanks for taking the time to chat! Can you tell us a bit about your program, SCORxE, and how your AD work has concentrated on improving opioid safety?
Sarah: SCORxE began in 2007 as an academic detailing service at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy and is now part of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Pharmacy. Our current efforts are around addressing the opioid epidemic. We’re fully funded by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and our agreement talks about bringing together quality initiatives for safer opioid prescribing and expanding access to MAT.
We’ve been able to effectively bring together quality initiatives from different state agencies that span prevention and treatment. This braiding has been a unique experience for our academic detailing service. Regardless of the specific topic, our detailers promote opioid risk reduction strategies, help recruit and support MAT providers, and work to reduce stigma around MAT. We’re currently shifting our focus from chronic pain to acute pain. We’ll be detailing both primary care providers and surgeons on post-surgical pain.
Anna: Detailing surgeons is a unique approach – we’d love to hear about the results of that process in the future. And you’re working on other topics outside of opioid safety, too – tell us more.
Sarah: Our providers always welcome new topics. While our focus is on the opioid epidemic, we try to expand our content reach when possible. We recently detailed on depression and anxiety screening, and touched on alcohol use disorder in our topic on naltrexone. We’ve always offered CME credits and our current strategy is shorter and more focused visits that offer a half hour of CME credit, as opposed to one or two hours of credit. This allows us to have multiple visits with each provider and to individualize next topic selection.
Megan: As a detailer, it’s helpful to have a menu of shorter topics that providers can choose from – it makes our visits more flexible.
Anna: Speaking of flexibility - how are you continuing to detail and run your program given the current COVID-19 pandemic?
Sarah: We haven’t previously engaged in virtual visits or e-detailing. We’re planning to reach out to our network of academic detailing colleagues who’ve had e-detailing visits in the past to see what their experience has been like. It’s times like these that show how valuable it is to have a network of academic detailing services. Being able to share ideas and find out what other folks have done will help us determine what will work best in our state.
Megan: We’ve been using the past few weeks to work on creating materials and scripts for upcoming topics. It’s been a good time to refresh on a lot of our content and update various internal documents. I’m going to begin reaching out to providers within the next few weeks and gauge their interest and comfort level in using a virtual platform.
Sarah: We know this is a difficult time for primary care providers, so it’s important for us to be compassionate in how we go about scheduling visits. We want to be sensitive to our providers’ time and respect what they’re going through, while still offering our detailing service around topics related to the opioid epidemic.
Anna: You’re not alone in figuring out this balance! You also mentioned that peer learning is an important component to a successful intervention. Can you tell us about your own peers on your team, and how they enhance your overall detailing service?
Sarah: Our program is under the College of Pharmacy, so we’ve recruited all our detailers from there and they’ve all been clinical pharmacists. We’re fortunate to have pharmacists because they’re well-respected among providers we visit. We have two full-time detailers, which is a privilege, and they’re very passionate about their work. Being able to have two people fully commit to detailing is far greater than the number implies. Both of our detailers have different personalities and different experiences to share – I think they complement each other very well!
Detailing can be lonely, though. When you have more detailers in your program that add up to two full time equivalents, what we have had in the past, you have more people sharing experiences during debriefs and more people to bounce ideas off; there are pros and cons to both scenarios.
Megan: My colleague, Lauren, and I come from different clinical backgrounds. When we work on our content development and role playing, we’re able to help each other consider things differently. It’s been fun to work with somebody who differs so much from me!
Anna: It sounds like you balance each other out well. How are the detailers in your program trained?
Sarah: All of our detailers have gone through pretty intense academic detailing training on the marketing of evidence-informed clinical ideas. Our most recent hires have gone through NaRCAD training, but before there was a NaRCAD, our pharmacists went through a training developed by a group in Australia. That training gave us a step up on everything when we first started our program, as NaRCAD also does with programs just getting started. We garnered our baseline of how we develop content, how we develop our supporting materials, and essentially how we put together our whole intervention.
Anna: It sounds like the detailers in your program are trained well and prepared for the field. Do you have certain strategies for getting in the door? Are there key stakeholders who your program has connected with that have helped you to do this?
Megan: Showing up at the office has repeatedly proven to work for us. We bring a letter to share with the first gatekeeper at the front desk, so that we can get face-to-face time with the providers for introductions. We’re usually able to schedule a meeting fairly easily after that. If we can’t meet with the provider face-to-face, we try to speak with the Office Manager.
Recently, we’ve been leveraging our group presentations at clinics to get more 1:1 visits. We try to promote our detailing visits during our presentations and grab contact information from providers afterwards. We’ve also found that it’s been helpful to stay in the break room at an office after a visit - we might stay there all day and introduce ourselves to a number of providers who end up wanting to either schedule a visit that day or in the future. We’ve found great success in being present for providers when they’re ready.
Sarah: When you can get face-to-face with the providers for a brief introduction, it’s a beautiful thing-it’s how we’ve gotten most of our visits over the years. When we first started, gaining access happened in different ways. We had champions in the area that supported what we were doing, and we could use that to get our detailers in the door. Our program was also previously part of a demonstration project where providers were required to have an academic detailing visit as part of the initiative. I would say that our cold calls became “warm calls” during that time because all the offices and providers knew we were coming.
Anna: I’m sure having providers in the area know about your detailing service has helped to build your program. Can you tell us more about how your program is working towards sustainability?
Sarah: We’re more sustainable than we’ve been for a while. Part of that is due to the funding that we have for opioid-related topics, but it’s also been due to the effort our program has put into effectively bringing together different quality initiatives over the years. We’ve had funding come in from multiple sources in that process.
One agency asked us to take on the topic of naloxone for pharmacists--our ability to respond to such requests helps up strengthen relationships, and may help us with future sustainability. It is also important that our interprofessional teams at MUSC see value in academic detailing.
Additionally, our detailers help us with sustainability through their visit documentation and tracking. The data they collect is included in our reporting and helps illustrate the value of academic detailing. Our clinical pharmacists are amazing people, and they both bring so much to what we do in the academic detailing world– programs are only as sustainable as the strength of their individual detailers!
Sarah Ball, PharmD is a Research Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), with a focus on patient-centered care, patient safety, and educational outreach. She has had direct involvement with academic detailing for over twelve years, beginning with the development and implementation of the SCORxE Academic Service under the SC College of Pharmacy in 2007. Current efforts include the integration of research and programmatic opportunities to identify interventions that change prescriber behavior to reduce the risk of opioid overuse, misuse, abuse, and overdose. Dr. Ball is currently leading the MUSC team partnering with the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for the provision of drug utilization review (DUR) services, which includes educational outreach to primary care providers and surgeons. Dr. Ball has twenty plus years with a career focus on improving patient care through the application of technology and effective communication of clinical knowledge, information, and data-derived findings. She is a graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina, where she received both a B.S. in Pharmacy and Pharm.D.
Dr. Megan Pruitt is a South Carolina Offering Prescribing Excellence (SCORxE) clinical pharmacy consultant and assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. She received her bachelor of science in health science from Clemson University and her doctor of pharmacy from the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. She has published an Amazon ebook, Catalyst (pharmD): The Next Generation Pharmacy Student, and has previous experience as a community pharmacist at Federally Qualified Health Center in South Carolina. In her current role as a SCORxE clinical pharmacy consultant, she provides academic detailing visits to primary care providers on monitoring practices to promote safe opioid use and to reduce the risk of misuse and abuse in South Carolina.
Bevin K. Shagoury, Communications & Education Director
A Letter from Our Team
To our AD Community:
By the time you read this, certain adjectives will have moved to the top of your frequently-used list. Words like “unprecedented”, “strange”, and “unsettling” are just a few that our home team has been using most commonly, and we’re sure that you, our community of AD peers, have been, too.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, priorities are changing quickly and frequently—many of our public health colleagues have found themselves focused primarily, if not entirely, on the situation at hand, with critical response demands shape-shifting hourly.
For those of us who spend our time more removed from frontline healthcare and have been focused on clinical outreach education or adjacent health improvement initiatives, challenging questions have arisen.
The answers to these and other questions are context-dependent, ever-changing, and don’t always have easy solutions. There are changes and disappointments to adapt to—for us, we’ve accepted the need to prioritize safety and postpone our March and June 2020 trainings (keep your eye on our Training Series page for reschedule dates), and we appreciate your patience as we wait to figure out next steps.
But we’re equally aware that there are just as many opportunities for growth. At NaRCAD, our goal right now is to support our colleagues as we all face the very real impacts of COVID-19. Concretely, we’re working hard to bridge some of the gaps that make the original, face-to-face model of AD temporarily impossible. We’re proud to share that we just launched our first e-Detailing Community of Practice, e-Detailing Toolkit, and are shifting focus on our 2020 Webinar Series this month to tend to the needs of those programs who must pivot to e-detailing and quickly.
As such, we encourage you to complete our 1-minute e-Detailing Needs Assessment survey, so we can design tools and resources that fit your needs. Based on your responses, we’ll translate your needs into tailored support to help you realistically maintain the work that you can, rebalance your priorities, and focus on future programming efforts during a time when the present is hard to navigate.
As we all try to take the current realities of our world one day at time, NaRCAD is dedicated to finding creative solutions for you all to continue supporting clinicians as best you can in making the kinds of decisions that will have a long-term impact on the health of their patients. We’re dedicated to growing with you as you inform how we grow and change our team’s priorities to match yours.
Join us in our Community of Practice, send us an e-mail, or better yet—take a deep breath. As you all try to face the daily challenges that arise during a time unlike any other, know that our team is here when you need us, as your colleagues, and as community members who care.
The Team @ NaRCAD
An interview with Elisabeth Fowlie Mock, MD, MPH from the Maine Independent Clinical Information Service (MICIS).
by Winnie Ho, Program Coordinator
Winnie: We appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today about the work that MICIS (Maine Independent Clinical Information Service) has done supporting evidence-based prescribing since 2008, and safer opioid prescribing since 2016. Can you tell us a little bit more about MICIS?
Elisabeth: We’re a small program created by legislation in the state of Maine, housed within the Maine Medical Association. We serve over 8600 prescribers including physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants across the entire state. Our two detailers are contracted to work about 5 hours a week each, which includes all of our administrative and detailing time.
Winnie: That’s an amazing feat to be serving such a large population with a small team. How have you built and maintained all of those relationships?
Elisabeth: We have always used more of a general educational outreach approach than the traditional one-on-one academic detailing model. We have limited resources with our contract, and the only way to reach that number of prescribers is to do small groups or lectures.
Winnie: We understand that there are many programs who adapt the original model of detailing to allow for more than one provider at a time to participate. While it’s a common workaround solution to having limited resources and a long list of providers to detail, it can be more difficult to discuss challenging topics, especially something like opioids and related stigma. How have you been able to navigate those challenges?
Elisabeth: When we detail in our groups, we focus on small group discussions. One method I use involves flashcards with myths or biases about Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), and asking two or three of the attendees to discuss that amongst themselves. We have also used a language sheet that guides providers in what to say.
We have people talk about the language commonly used in practice, and how that can affect the care that’s provided. I think just like any other place, we encounter people who have all of the biases that you’ve heard of when it comes to opioid use disorder – that it’s not a disease, that buprenorphine and methadone are just trading one drug for another.
Winnie: There must be a lot to unpack when discussing the root of where these beliefs come from. It’s a core component of what we hope to achieve through academic detailing – an honest dialogue that leads to positive clinical practice outcomes.
Elisabeth: Exactly. I think it’s important to understand that, for example, with chronic pain prescribing, there are a lot of people who are reluctant to embrace evidence from the past five years that shows no benefit from opioids, and more significant evidence of harm. It’s been interesting to see how people have been stuck on what they learned twenty years ago, and to see them reject the newer information.
Winnie: It’s incredibly important that detailers remember in navigating tough conversations about stigma that there is a shared goal of promoting patient health. No provider undergoes training and hard work with the intention of harming patients.
Elisabeth: I think these tough conversations can produce some cognitive dissonance in people. Basically, if I, as a physician myself, agree with the premise that what I did fifteen years ago actually contributed to OUD in my patients, and if I admit that, then I also have to carry a burden that it was my fault. It’s a hard jump for people who made it their life’s work to care for people.
Winnie: It’s absolutely a human response. What have you found to be an effective way of addressing the problems caused by stigma, while also addressing the fact that providers are human?
Elisabeth: People don’t want to be overwhelmed by data, but repeated snippets of data over time can help you reinforce the message, which is what we do with academic detailing. I think of myself in my work as a physician – I started on opioid education projects more than half a decade ago. It wasn’t my top choice, but I became more and more educated about the crisis and heard the information in multiple ways. It really changed my way of thinking to the point of realizing I needed to be part of the solution. I received my X-Waiver back in 2016 and started prescribing buprenorphine.
Winnie: That’s a wonderful reflection on how repeated messaging helped change your mindset as a provider. It’s important to understand that people can change, no matter what holds them back.
Elisabeth: I think that as academic detailers, we might not always recognize the impact right away. We might not get the immediate positive feedback from a clinician after an interaction, but especially if you’re lucky enough to grow relationships with the people you detail over time, you can see the change. I think that’s the most effective and rewarding part of detailing.
I prescribe buprenorphine because I can teach about it, but I also do it because it’s important. This work gives us an opportunity to be leaders for people who don’t always have a voice, and because of stigma, aren’t being listened to. Most of our patients with OUD are on the margins and struggle even during stable economic times. Especially right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, the rest of the country may not be worrying about how we’re going to safely maintain our patients on buprenorphine, but we need to worry about it.
An interview with Kristefer Stojanovski, MPH, PhD(c), Public Health Researcher and Evaluation Specialist, Capacity Building Assistance Program, San Francisco Department of Public Health
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
NaRCAD: Hi, Kristefer! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. Can you tell us a bit about your background and the work you’re currently doing as it relates to academic detailing?
Kristefer: Thanks for having me. I’m a public health researcher and an evaluation specialist with the Capacity Building Assistance Program at San Francisco Department of Public Health. I serve as a specialist and a technical assistance provider for the West region of the United States. My work is focused on data and evaluation of academic detailing programs that are working on topics like sexual health, HIV, and PrEP. My main goal is to help folks measure, or think about, what “success” may look like for an academic detailing program.
NaRCAD: What data do you think is most important for academic detailers to track during their visits when measuring or thinking about success?
Kristefer: I see evaluation data and detailing efforts as one complete package. Detailers should think about their data at a high level and focus on the information they’re collecting and how that information serves the overall goal of detailing, which is to improve knowledge, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors of providers and clinics.
At the same time, detailers should think about how they can show that they’re achieving that goal. For example, it’s useful to track how many providers they’ve seen, how much time was spent with providers, what they talked about during the visit, the resources that were provided, how the providers plan to use those resources, if a follow-up visit was scheduled, and the purpose of that follow-up visit. It’s important to track a mix of quantitative and qualitative data, but the critical components that should be tracked are the outcomes and the process of detailing.
NaRCAD: What about academic detailing programs? What data should they collect?
Kristefer: In a typical detailing program, detailers have a longitudinal, continuous outreach to providers. There’s an interesting conversation to be had about how we can use that temporal matrix as a tool and strategy for evaluation. I’m interested in how we can use the work academic detailers are doing – the actual visits themselves - as pieces of data over time.
For example, if detailers are collecting some of the rich conversation that they’re having with providers or clinics, it’s fascinating to track those conversations over time and see how the detailing program is changing the knowledge, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors of those providers and clinics. There’s a lot of work that detailers are already doing that can be easily turned into data sources for both the detailing effort and the evaluation effort. I like to think about how we can make things as simple as possible.
NaRCAD: Is there a specific platform that makes things simple and is best for collecting data for academic detailers and programs?
Kristefer: That certainly becomes a little bit more individualistic when thinking about the needs, challenges, and abilities of each jurisdiction. Detailing is a conversational effort that is attempting to make concrete behavior change, so it becomes more convoluted when you think about how to track a conversation. Some jurisdictions might have a place to track conversations in their electronic health record, where others may not.
At the most basic level, detailers can chart their conversations on one-page Word documents. The detailers I worked with charted their conversations with providers over time and eventually put it in one large PDF that could be easily uploaded into a qualitative data analysis software. You have to be creative when it comes to tracking this information.
NaRCAD: How would you recommend that programs with limited resources go about data collection and evaluation?
Kristefer: A lot of times we say we want to have high-tech solutions when we don’t actually need them. For a resource constrained department, having that one-page Word document that allows detailers to chart their interactions is more than enough data. Charting for just five minutes after a detailing visit about everything that took place becomes a wealth of information. You can also use an Excel document to input data from provider surveys.
There are many low-tech ways to track information and it’s important to be aware of the low hanging fruit in terms of data collection. You want to be able to easily collect data that serves the detailing efforts, the program, and the evaluation and improvement process.
NaRCAD: That’s a great way to look at it. What are some best practices for using data for leadership buy-in?
Kristefer: I can’t stress enough how important data is in getting leadership buy-in. Data is not only quantitative and qualitative, but also using the information gathered to tell a story. It would be a strong statement if someone was able to go to leadership with a story about how providers have changed their practices based on the detailing effort. Using concrete results and showing leadership that detailing is making a change is extremely helpful for buy-in.
Being able to show crazy big outcomes with your data won’t happen, but sharing stories from providers and clinics about how detailing has helped them is quite moving. I’ve heard some amazing stories during my evaluation. For example, detailers helped providers at some clinics to provide patients with directly observed therapy for PrEP at the same time that they were providing them with medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. It’s impressive that detailing at those sites was able to make the clinics think creatively and be able to provide PrEP to these patients.
NaRCAD: That certainly is impressive! What has surprised you the most about the academic detailing data you’ve evaluated?
Kristefer: I can’t help but to think that pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars and resources on this model and they certainly wouldn’t have been doing this for decades if it didn’t work. We’re almost a little late to the game as public health practitioners, but through my experience evaluating some of this work and reading other evaluations, I’ve been shocked by how much providers truly value detailers.
It’s fascinating to see how these health systems and departments are viewed as trusted partners by providers and clinics and how detailing has served as a role to improve that partnership and collaboration. Providers have often said how crucial this information has been in getting access to Department of Public Health resources they didn’t even know existed, which is pretty sad. Seeing public health and the medical system working side by side in this kind of way has been breathtaking.
Kristefer Stojanovski is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Health Behavior & Health Education, School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. Kristefer has been doing community-based mixed methods research since 2010. His research explores the social and structural determinants to sexual health and HIV outcomes among key populations in the U.S. and in Southeastern Europe. Kristefer’s work interrogates how stigma drives HIV risk and infection using complex systems theory, structural equation, agent-based and multilevel modeling. Kristefer also translates his research into policy and decision-making. He is an evaluation specialist with the Capacity Building Assistance program with the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
An interview with Terryn Naumann BSc(Pharm), PharmD the Director of Academic Detailing and Optimal Use at the British Columbia Ministry of Health by Winnie Ho, NaRCAD Program Coordinator.
Overview: Terryn previously spoke about her experiences on a virtual detailing panel at the NaRCAD2019 conference. You can watch the video recording here.
NaRCAD: Terryn, thank you so much for speaking with us today about your experiences with detailing in the province of British Columbia. The BC Provincial Academic Detailing (PAD) Service certainly has a lot of ground to cover. Tell us about the program goals and geography.
Terryn: For reference, British Columbia is geographically larger than Texas, but the population of British Columbia is only about 5 million people. We provide our detailing services to family practice physicians, nurse practitioners, and a few other healthcare professionals. Our detailers each do more than 175 visits per year, and collectively, they see about 2000 providers per topic, which includes about a third or so, of all the family physicians in BC.
We have 12 detailers in total, half of whom are working in less densely populated areas. For example, the northern end of the province is mostly small communities with only 3-4 providers in each town. One year, one of the detailers drove over 17,000 km (10,563mi) for her visits alone!
NaRCAD: That’s an incredible amount of work that your detailers have been up to! And you yourself have been active in AD for a long time. What was your experience then like?
Terryn: I started in 1993 with the program that would one day expand to become the PAD service, and I detailed for about 7 years. I came back to academic detailing in 2008 as the coordinator of the provincial program. When I started in 1993, I had just graduated with my PharmD. I had read about AD and was excited to try something new.
You have to realize, at the time, technology wasn’t that advanced... I didn’t even have an e-mail address when I first started. You couldn’t just send people a note and say “When would you like to meet?” It wasn’t simple to access people.
NaRCAD: How would you describe how AD has changed since you started?
Terryn: When I started, I was the first academic detailer in Canada. There were about 70 physicians that I would go out to visit for each of the topics I put together after having the content reviewed by a local physician specialist from within our own community. One of the things that has changed is the breadth of resources and the growth of the AD community. There are so many more people involved, content is more thoroughly researched, and the literature is more readily accessible through technology.
NaRCAD: Technology has certainly changed the way the world works, and it’s something that detailing programs are turning to more and more to tackle the challenges you’ve mentioned, such as trying to serve a large and scattered population with a limited team. We’ve seen the increased use of tele-communications to do detailing. What has your experience been with virtual detailing, also commonly called ‘e-detailing’?
Terryn: One of the things we value about AD is that truly interactive, face-to-face encounter and that ability to individualize sessions to the provider’s learning needs. Virtual detailing uses a different methodology altogether. I think there are advantages to virtual detailing, but sometimes I think that it’s not as simple as moving AD to a web platform. I worry about the personal elements you can lose, even when using a web platform where you can see each other. My detailers often end up making slides of the original materials, which sometimes turns the session into more of a presentation.
NaRCAD: Can you elaborate further on the nuances you’ve seen with this new approach?
Terryn: We started with something we called Technology-Enabled AD (TEAD) which was a limited study done to compare the efficacy of TEAD versus a traditional face-to-face visit. They found that there was an effective knowledge exchange during both types of sessions, but the time it took for TEAD was far shorter. However, when we added TEAD as an optional feature for our providers, we ran into multiple challenges, such as detailers and providers not being familiar enough with the technology. The large majority of our providers choose to meet in person when they have that option.
That said, virtual detailing has been useful considering BC’s terrain and rough winters. Some regions have winter 8 months of the year and travel is limited for safety reasons. We have used virtual detailing, but find that we need detailers that are tech-savvy and can guide providers through accessing the platform easily.
The key is maintaining the interactivity component and having the session not become a presentation. If we can embrace virtual detailing as its own, unique skillset, we may be able to take advantage of all of its benefits. I think that we’re also at a changing point in technology – the next generation of providers (and detailers) will have grown up with and be more comfortable using technology.
NaRCAD: There will be a lot of growth in detailing as we are able to incorporate more options into how we reach providers, with the emphasis being on building a strong relationship.
Terryn: The goal of AD has always been to have a clinician who values a discussion about the evidence, and then is able to incorporate the evidence into their own practice and drug therapy decision making. E-detailing is just another modality for doing that.
We found that virtual detailing is most effective after establishing a prior relationship with the provider during a face-to-face visit. We received fantastic feedback from one provider who felt the virtual detailing session that he participated in from the comfort and privacy of his home allowed him to ask questions he might otherwise have avoided asking in a group setting. If we can use technology to build relationships like that, then ultimately isn’t that what we want?
I would say that it is.
Terryn Naumann is the Director of Academic Detailing and Optimal Use at British Columbia’s Ministry of Health’s Pharmaceutical Services Division. She earned her pharmacy degrees from the University of British Columbia and completed a hospital pharmacy residency at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. Terryn began her career in academic detailing in 1993 when she worked at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver as the clinical pharmacist for the Community Drug Utilization Program – the first academic detailing program in Canada.
Since 2008, Terryn has led BC’s Provincial Academic Detailing (PAD) Service, a team of 12 academic detailing pharmacists who conduct over 2000 academic detailing/small group learning sessions each year. She is a member of the Canadian Academic Detailing Collaboration, having served as chairperson and secretary. She has also been a facilitator at several of the Centre for Effective Practice’s Basic Academic Detailing workshops.
An interview with Brandon Mizroch, MD, MBBS, Provider Network Supervisor, Louisiana Department of Health
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
NaRCAD: Thanks for chatting with us today, Brandon! We’re excited to be catching up with you. Can you tell us about your program at the Louisiana Department of Health and the work you’re currently doing?
Brandon: Absolutely. I was hired to do work around PrEP and PEP, detailing providers across the state of Louisiana, in 2017. Since then, my role has expanded and I promote education for providers about syphilis, congenital syphilis, and Hepatitis C. Our department now has 3 detailers, including myself.
Louisiana became the first state in the country to undergo an incredibly revolutionary Hepatitis C Elimination Plan, which has caused my detailing focus to shift. There’s been huge advancements in the drugs that treat Hepatitis C, but they’ve been inaccessible to much of the population due to cost. We negotiated a fixed rate price for Hepatitis C treatment and can now treat 100% of the population, compared to the 3% of the population we could treat previously. There’s been a big push to identify and train providers who’ve never previously treated patients with Hepatitis C. I’ve been leading the charge by getting the word out, running symposiums, and working with the marketing team that’s creating our statewide campaign.
NaRCAD: Wow, that sounds like innovative and exciting work. Can you explain your program’s approach a bit more?
Brandon: I try to blend a few different approaches together. I attended the NaRCAD training during my first year as a detailer. NaRCAD built the foundation of detailing for me. I always use the NaRCAD methodology to get my foot in the door and identify providers who can be champions within their practices. I find it much easier to follow up and do longer didactic sessions about complex clinical topics when I use the techniques of academic detailing during my first face-to-face visits with providers.
I connect with about 20 providers in this 1:1 model each month. I also work with residency programs, hospital systems, and present at Grand Rounds to expand my reach. There’ve even been instances where I’ve attended dinners for physicians that are hosted by pharmaceutical companies to network and identify new clinics that would benefit from detailing.
NaRCAD: We’re happy to see that you’re blending academic detailing with other approaches. Do you provide follow-up to providers after your visits?
Brandon: Follow-up is incredibly important, no matter what approach is being used. I like to send an email after each visit that includes digital resources for both providers and patients. I also offer providers the ability to call, text, or email me because of the apprehension that exists around topics where the knowledge base is still growing. Maintaining relationships with providers also ensures that we have a strong provider network that we can continue to educate on other clinical topics down the road.
NaRCAD: Building a connection with providers is imperative, especially as you move into different clinical topics. Your program spans the entire state. Do you find that there’s a difference when you provide clinical outreach education in rural vs. urban communities?
Brandon: Yes, there’s certainly a difference. The providers in urban areas tend to have a higher knowledge base when it comes to PrEP and syphilis, perhaps due to marketing efforts or higher patient loads. This makes starting the conversation a bit easier. Additionally, urban communities have access to navigators, who help with non-medical aspects, like transportation issues, lack of health insurance, and long commute times that all prevent folks from getting the treatment they need. Providers in urban areas are also busier and easily distracted during 1:1 visits, which can make detailing a bit difficult.
On the other hand, rural communities are quite the opposite. Providers tend to have more time in their schedules and are excited to sit down with somebody from the state office. They’re eager to learn, but there’s typically less of a knowledge base, making it slightly more difficult to start the conversation.
I’ve also learned about patient barriers as well, which affect access and provider care. Patients in rural areas are often friends or family with those throughout the community, including those who work at clinics. The notion that you would know the receptionist or provider at a clinic is enough to deter folks from seeking medical care around a topic like sexual health. To encourage access, our state has created a TelePrEP program that offers PrEP services to anyone via telemedicine. Consultations take place over the phone, labs are obtained at third party lab companies, and medications are mailed right to the front doors of patients. It was originally created to help folks in rural communities who face stigma-related barriers, but we’ve expanded the program across the entire state of Louisiana. It’s a great referral service that I can share with providers.
NaRCAD: It’s wonderful that you’re able to identify these challenges and have resources and tools to address them. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to folks who are detailing on a similar clinical topic or have a large geographical region to cover?
Brandon: It’s important to have several different ways of presenting information to the providers you’re detailing and to use varied approaches depending on the barrier(s) they’re facing. I typically focus on emotional connection, financial concerns, and the evidence and science behind the key messages I’m delivering. I’m also ready for provider resistance, and am prepared to address it, which is something I learned from NaRCAD.
When it comes to detailing over a large and diverse geography, it’s always necessary to plan ahead. My general rule of thumb is that however many hours it takes to drive to a location, that’s how many providers I want to meet with while I’m there. I typically try to use larger educational events, like meetings with clinics over lunch, as my anchor point for longer trips. After I have that scheduled, I search for smaller clinics around the area where I can meet with providers 1:1. It’s all about maximizing your time.
Brandon Mizroch received his MD/MBBS from the University of Queensland/Ochsner Clinical School Program in November of 2016. Since taking over as the PEP/PrEP Provider Outreach Specialist at the Louisiana Department of Health in August, 2017, he has worked with hundreds of doctors statewide on HIV prevention best practice. Since then he has expanded his educational base and now serves as the head of the academic detailing department at the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health, STD/HIV/Hepatitis program. As the Provider Network Supervisor he has helped lead the provider Outreach for the state’s first-in-the-nation Hepatitis C Elimination program. From grand rounds presentations at LSU-Shreveport Hospital and Baton Rouge General, to state-wide symposia and conferences, to one-on-one counseling encounters at dozens of clinics all over Louisiana, he has helped spread awareness and education on HIV prevention, syphilis screening and treatment, and HCV screening and treatment through evidence-based care.
An interview with Tony de Melo, RPh, Director of Clinical Education Programs, Alosa Health
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
NaRCAD: Tony, thanks for chatting with us today about your role at Alosa Health! What’s been the most exciting part of the work that Alosa has done this year?
Tony: Our partnership with Aetna, a managed health care company and health care insurer. We’ve been working with them to provide educational outreach to providers on chronic pain, acute pain, and opioid use disorder (OUD); supporting them in managing pain using non-opioid drug options; appropriately dosing opioids when they need to be used; tapering down patients who are on existing high doses of opioids; and helping to identify patients that may have opioid use disorder. We’re now working in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Maine.
NaRCAD: That collaboration does sound exciting! Now, let’s talk a little about your role at Alosa. You actively detail, you manage academic detailers in the field, and you lead trainings at Alosa. Which aspect of your role is your favorite, and why?
Tony: When I’m training and managing detailers, I see myself more as a coach than a trainer. I’ve always liked educating and teaching—I enjoy helping others develop their skills and seeing them improve. Training folks and coaching them in the field is rewarding to me because I feel that I’m impacting what they’re doing in their own communities. It brings me happiness to see others succeed.
NaRCAD: As a coach, how do you know when your work has been impactful?
Tony: When I work with detailers in the field, I can see firsthand that they are able to be impactful with the providers because they are bringing about behavior change with their message delivery and confidence. We can also measure how impactful our work is by reviewing our Salesforce data. I can see from the detailer’s visit notes when providers have agreed to a behavior change, and this is a true measure of our work being impactful.
NaRCAD: With success comes challenges. What are some of the major challenges you see academic detailers face in training and in the field?
Tony: The major challenge is teaching detailers to have a conversation with clinicians rather than a lecture. Making the visit more conversational doesn’t often come as naturally as presenting the information in a lecture format, but the conversation must be about understanding where the provider is now, what their needs might be, and how to deliver content to make behavior change.
In the field, the major challenge is access to providers. Many health systems have regulations and restrictions for those who want to meet with providers, because representatives in the pharma industry have bombarded and overloaded providers throughout the years. As a result, we’re often seen as an outside influence or an outside visitor, so we aren’t always given the opportunity to meet with a provider.
NaRCAD: With these challenges in mind, how do you instill confidence in academic detailers as a trainer and as a manager?
Tony: We spend a lot of time practicing and providing feedback during trainings. We practice individually, with partners, and with outside folks who are playing the role of providers. Practicing multiple situations, multiple times, over multiple days, builds confidence. We also videotape the trainees so that they can see what they’re doing well and what they can improve upon.
As a manager in the field, it’s quite similar. I usually sit down with each detailer after a visit and discuss what worked well and what they could do differently in their next visit, so that each visit becomes a learning opportunity. Providing feedback and being a mirror for the detailers helps them to build confidence and skills as time goes on. I also offer the detailers my perspective; having spent time doing this myself and observing others, I can share the tricks, skills, and wording I’ve heard throughout my time with the detailers.
NaRCAD: Those are all great ways to build confidence among detailers. What’s one piece of advice that you would give to academic detailers?
Tony: Don’t be afraid to ask for a specific behavior change, and remember to follow up to make sure that the behavior change occurs. One thing that I find to be hard for academic detailers is the “ask”, where detailers are asking for commitment or behavior change from a provider at the end of the visit. I always tell detailers to frame it as, “based on what you’ve heard today, what is one thing you’d do differently?” Follow-up then ensures that providers are committed to change and holds them accountable for what they said they would do.
NaRCAD: That’s extremely helpful advice for detailers. What’s the best thing a program manager could do to maintain high levels of engagement among detailers?
Tony: As a manager who’s coaching or guiding others, it’s important to build trust between yourself and the folks you’re coaching or managing. It can be lonely when you’re in the field detailing by yourself, so managers need to have touchpoints with their detailers. Building trust and having your detailers know you’re all working together helps them stay self-motivated; it makes them want to go out into the field and do a good job because they know someone is backing them up.
NaRCAD: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. We value your unique perspective on detailing, managing, and training!
Tony de Melo manages field staff and leads academic detailer trainings at Alosa Health. He attended Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, where he received a BS in Pharmacy with a minor in Business Administration. This business interest led him to work for several pharmaceutical companies as a sales representative, account manager, training manager, district/regional manager, associate director of managed markets training, head of sales training, and development & marketing product manager. He has also worked for smaller businesses that were looking to grow their sales and marketing programs. Throughout his career, Tony has successfully sold, marketed, trained, led, designed, developed and executed solutions to meet business objectives.
Director's Letter | Mike Fischer, MD, MS, Director of NaRCAD
As NaRCAD enters its 10th year as the only national resource center dedicated to clinical outreach education, we’re ready to take our collaborations with you to the next level. The strength and sustainability of NaRCAD has grown from the hard work we’ve done together with you, our community members in the field.
We’re committed to continuing to provide the technical assistance you need to make your programs innovative, efficient, and successful. As we kick off 2020, our entire team at NaRCAD invites you to join us in leading our field forward through strategic partnerships, resource-sharing, and peer learning, all to implement important initiatives that will have a significant impact on clinicians and their patients.
The nature of our role as a resource center has continued to grow in parallel with increased recognition of the importance of academic detailing as a strategy to address multiple clinical challenges. We’ve been especially excited to see the effectiveness of AD enhanced when aligned with other initiatives to improve the quality of care.
Responding to this growing demand, we’ve dramatically expanded our reach, conducting 20 trainings in 15 different states across the US in the past two years alone, and 2020 looks to be no different. With the increased demand for AD technical assistance, we have a busy year ahead of us, from capturing your successes and sharing them via our DETAILS Blog to training your detailers to be ready for field work (and troubleshooting challenges along the way.)
Along with continued trainings across the US to improve opioid safety in partnership with states supported by the CDC’s Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grants, we’ll also continue the important work of training new detailers to educate clinicians about using HIV PrEP to reduce the risk of new HIV infections, also through CDC-funded programming.
We’re equally excited to have launched a new CDC research grant in collaboration with the Oregon Health Authority to rigorously evaluate the impact of their OD2A intervention and to develop a model for pragmatic assessment of similar efforts in other states. If you’re also interested in evaluating the impact of your AD program, reach out and let us know—we’re eager to hear from you.
Although we have been conducting more trainings recently, we see the demand for them continuing to grow at an even faster pace. As we grow, so does our core team, and all of us are dedicated to amplifying the impact of the important work you do. We’re already starting to plan for NaRCAD2020, our 8th annual conference, and we invite you to consider submitting your ideas and innovations when we start accepting submissions on March 1, 2020. But you don’t need to wait until then—we’re here to offer you customized support to strengthen your program, as you plan for success in 2020 and beyond.
Happy New Year!
Michael Fischer, MD, MS, Director, NaRCAD
Dr. Fischer is a general internist, pharmacoepidemiologist, and health services researcher. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and a clinically active primary care physician and educator at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. With extensive experience in designing and evaluating interventions to improve medication use, he has published numerous studies demonstrating potential gains from improved prescribing. Read more.
An interview with Jennifer Pruskowski, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP, CPE, a palliative care pharmacist at University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy by Winnie Ho, Program Coordinator
Overview: This intervention is taking place in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Senior Communities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Pruskowski's work is funded by The Beckwith Institute.
NaRCAD: Hi Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today! You are breaking new ground on a deprescribing academic detailing project in Pittsburgh. What role does deprescribing play in improving health outcomes in nursing homes?
Jennifer: Deprescribing is the identification and discontinuation of potentially unnecessary or inappropriate medications. What I really love about deprescribing is that it’s really patient-centered.
For example, one medication class might be appropriate for one patient, but maybe not for the next. Within the UPMC Senior Communities, I have developed, implemented, and evaluated a clinical pharmacy-driven deprescribing initiative named the DE-PHARM Project, which stands for the "Discussion to Ensure the Patient-centered, Health-focused, Prognosis-appropriate and Rational Medication regimen". Say that 5 times fast!
This project allows pharmacists within the nursing home setting to review medication regimens and conduct conversations with nursing home residents, their families, and their caregivers. Deprescribing allows us to rebalance the equation when there may be medication overload, and helps us to reduce the burden on our patients.
NaRCAD: What are unique factors when approaching deprescribing work in nursing homes?
Jennifer: While a lot of patients outside of the nursing home are complex, the nursing home population is one of the most obvious and at-need, due to their reduced functional status and their need for additional services. Nursing home residents also tend to receive their care, essentially, from one provider. So, it’s very conducive for deprescribing, and it allows us as an academic detailing program to overcome one of the main barriers to deprescribing, which is tracking down and contacting potentially numerous prescribers.
NaRCAD: That's a pretty common barrier, to track down and identify the multiple providers that are supporting the patient.
Jennifer: Absolutely. The other thing to consider is that there are already regulations in place within a nursing home setting that encourages deprescribing. Every nursing home that receives Medicare or Medicaid has certain regulations to follow, which is basically all of them. For example, since the mid 2000’s, there’s been verbiage around ‘gradual dose reduction’ for anti-psychotics, and then in the last 5 to 7 years, this was expanded to antimicrobials as well to try to curb growing antibiotic resistance.
Nursing homes are built for deprescribing, in the sense that these medications are continuously monitored and every quarter, they need to justify to CMS why someone is on a medication at a certain dose.
However, what gets challenging is integrating care goals, functional status, patient perspectives, and evidence-based literature into deprescribing. Nursing home settings often times have a comfort-focused treatment plan. The medications that I tend to focus on when encouraging deprescribing may not be the same as other detailers. For example, many detailers are working on opioid-related campaigns. Opioids are crucial for deprescribing, but if you think of a patient who is closer to the end of life, opioids are typically not what we target because the medication tends to align with their treatment plan and goals.
NaRCAD: That’s a really interesting and complicated situation. What are some of the other challenges you’re facing with approaching deprescribing in nursing homes?
Jennifer: One of the big challenges is that no studies have been done about the initiation of certain medications in nursing home residents. Most clinical trials are also done in healthier, younger adults. We don’t have the most literature to guide a lot of what we do, and it’s critical because our prescribing goals are going to be different for the nursing home population as compared to the general population.
NaRCAD: This can often be a challenge when initiating an academic detailing campaign in a field that may not have as many other detailers. One of the foundations of academic detailing is the dissemination of evidence based information, but as you mention, there are not as many resources and studies in the work you’re about to partake in.
As you and your team begin to initiate your program, how do you plan on approaching this paradox?
Jennifer: So, the first thing that we’re doing is determining the medication that we’re going to target. We’re taking a look at prescribing cultures within the nursing homes that we’re targeting, and our working group is looking at what medication regimens are potentially inappropriate, or deprescribing eligible.
There is an evidence-based algorithm that we utilize for our intervention based on what medication class we will target from deprescribing.org, run by Barb Farrell, a friend and colleague of mine in the Canadian Deprescribing Research Network. So for some medications, such as proton pump inhibitors or histamine blockers, there are resources that have been created.
However, as we do the groundwork for our program, we could potentially find ourselves targeting a medication class that doesn’t have a lot of evidence-based literature around it, and then that will be both the challenging and fun part of developing verbiage and guidelines around that.
NaRCAD: Someone’s always got to do it first! It can be difficult getting programs started, and we are very lucky to have a growing population of people who are interested in integrating academic detailing into their programs.
As you’re reflecting and planning for the future, what would be important for someone else in your shoes to know about starting a new program?
Jennifer: The most important part is really thinking through the needs assessment. We know that there is a problem, and now it’s about identifying the specific issues and critically thinking through a solution. We will really need to understand the prescribing behaviors that exist in our nursing homes. Much of the prescribing culture there is based off inertia, extrapolation, and people doing their best to adapt important regimens from information that doesn’t directly address their unique situations with nursing home residents.
We are trying to see if, for example, our providers are prescribing certain medications because they see this problem a lot in other populations they work with, or if they are working off of knowledge that has not been updated in many, many years. These would be two very different academic detailing interventions.
NaRCAD: And finally, as we begin a brand-new decade in 2020, what would you say to anyone else looking to consider academic detailing?
Jennifer: Jump in! Academic detailing is a proven intervention to effectively disseminate evidence-based literature. I would say that as much as academic detailing can feel like a one way street – as a detailer coming to give a provider information – it really is more of a two-way street than people think. I think in the small amount of time that I’ve done this, I feel like I’ve actually gotten more information from our prescribers than I feel like I’m giving to them at the end of the day.
NaRCAD: A fantastic note to end on. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us, and we wish you and your team continued success in 2020!
Dr. Pruskowski received her PharmD from Wilkes University in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. She then completed a Post-Graduate Year One Pharmacy Practice and Post-Graduate Year Two Geriatric Residency from the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina, as well as an Interprofessional Palliative Care Fellowship at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bronx, New York.
Dr. Pruskowski is a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist, a Certified Geriatric Pharmacist, and a Certified Pain Educator, and has received specialized training in pain management from the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Her clinical practice site is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Palliative Supportive Institute (PSI) as the Palliative Care Clinical Pharmacy Specialist.
An interview with Rachel Lemons, Project Manager, ONE Tennessee
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
NaRCAD: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today—we’re excited to hear about you and your team! Can you tell us a bit about ONE Tennessee and how your organization first became involved with academic detailing?
Rachel: ONE Tennessee is a state-wide nonprofit healthcare collaborative who is focused on fighting the opioid epidemic. We were founded as an outcome of a summit hosted by the Tennessee Department of Health called “Turning the Tide.” The summit joined together healthcare professionals and stakeholders to discuss best practices for tackling the epidemic. Academic detailing was highlighted as a best practice during the summit and it was collectively decided that it would become one of our initial projects. ONE Tennessee brought the academic detailing pilot program to life through the opioid crisis funding the Department of Health received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NaRCAD: We’re glad to know that the strategy of AD was highlighted! You’re now managing a program of detailers focused on opioid safety across the state of Tennessee—tell us what that’s like.
Rachel: Exciting! Once our detailers were trained by your team, my role was very much supportive in nature. I helped our detailers to identify clinicians in their communities, and troubleshoot any issues. We were fortunate enough to be able to recruit a passionate group of pharmacists for our pilot, and that made my job easier from a clinical standpoint, since they’re the subject matter experts on opioid prescribing. They‘re on the front line of the epidemic, and they fit the perfect mold for engaging with clinicians to build a strong and trusting relationship.
NaRCAD: You recently completed the pilot stage of your program. What would you say are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far about building an academic detailing program?
Rachel: Getting in the door was one of the biggest barriers our detailers faced. From a programmatic standpoint, I think ONE Tennessee could have done a little more foundational work for our detailers, like speaking with our stakeholders and educating them on academic detailing as it relates to the opioid initiative—that would have really helped our detailers gain access to clinicians.
We also learned that time was a barrier for our detailers. Our initial grant period was only one year, and things moved very quickly. We recruited full-time community pharmacists, so having the bandwidth to prepare and complete academic detailing visits was often difficult, especially if there was limited employer support.
NaRCAD: Those are all familiar challenges across many of the programs we support. How did you maintain strong relationships with your detailers and support them in the work that they were doing in the field?
Rachel: I always had an open line of communication with our detailers. We had standing monthly webinars, but it was difficult to find a time that worked for everyone because they were full-time pharmacists. Our detailers were scattered across the state and were mostly in rural areas, so I was not able to meet with them in person; however, I was available via email, phone call, and text message. I learned early on that I had to meet detailers where they were. Some detailers did not have time to check email, so it was easier to do a quick call at lunch or early in the morning before their day got started. It really depended on the needs of the detailer, but I always maintained an open line of communication.
NaRCAD: That’s a great model, and regular communication helps detailers feel a sense of community through a project. Other supports are often more concrete, like tools and resources. What are some that you've found to be critical to program success, and why?
Rachel: I think first and foremost, our partners, specifically NaRCAD, the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, the Tennessee Hospital Association, the Tennessee Nurses Association, the Tennessee Medical Association, and the Tennessee Department of Health, were a tremendous resource that made our program incredibly successful. Google’s platform (Google Drive, Google Sheets, and Google Docs) was also critical to our success, as it allowed us to share data and updates in real time. We did not have access to specific evaluation tools because we are a young organization and our grant period was only one year. Our shared space online helped me to stay organized and capture information from our detailers all in one place, and it was free!
NaRCAD: These are all great reflections for AD program managers to learn from. Based on the successes and challenges of this pilot, where do you see your program in a year?
Rachel: I see us continuing our current model with our inaugural group of academic detailing community pharmacists while working towards designing, developing, and implementing a “train -the -trainer” model in partnership with your team. I also see us having discussions with large and small hospital systems to customize plans to fit their unique needs related to opioid safety. Most importantly, we want to continue to support the state and our other healthcare stakeholders who are with us on this journey.
NaRCAD: We’re happy to help support that vision. Any other important advice/tip that you’d give to other young programs?
Rachel: Patience. You must have an understanding that there are going to be pitfalls, but if you have the support and the right people involved, your program is going to succeed. Also, don’t try to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. There are so many other programs out there — reach out to people and have conversations!
NaRCAD: Rachel, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. We're excited to see the impact of your program into the future.
Rachel Lemons found passion for public service early on in life. She is committed to assisting those with the greatest need in her community. She’s working to effect change socially and through public policy. She is a graduate of East Tennessee State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health. Her involvement with Tennessee’s Opioid Epidemic began with the Department of Health, where she was exposed to the State’s rapid response in this fight which lead her to joining ONE Tennessee as a Project Manager. She continues to build her career with a practical and wide ranging set of experiences in order to gain a global perspective on health issues facing communities today. Rachel is an active member in the Junior League of Nashville, Tennessee Public Health Association and currently serves as the Board Intern at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville.
Please refer to our Conference Hub page through narcad.org for all conference related videos and slides, which are available as of December 2nd, 2019.
by Anna Morgan, RN, BSN, MPH, NaRCAD Program Manager
Our team at NaRCAD was proud to host the 7th International Conference on Academic Detailing on November 7th and 8th, 2019 in Boston to a sold-out crowd of health professionals engaged in clinical outreach education. With this year’s theme emphasizing collaboration and innovation, our Director, Dr. Mike Fischer, kicked off Day 1 of NaRCAD2019 by reflecting on the past decade of NaRCAD’s work, while also discussing our exciting plans for the future, and highlighting the importance of enhancing connection between attendees to support their work ahead.
Dr. Melissa Christopher, National Director for the Veteran Affairs (VA) Academic Detailing Services, was next to take the stage as the Day 1 Keynote Speaker. She provided the audience with an overview of the current work by the Department of Veterans Affairs National Academic Detailing Service and how it supports a High Reliability Organization culture. She also spoke of the future of academic detailing at the VA, which includes expanding their reach with virtual detailing (“e-detailing”) and advancing their electronic health records through ordering safety alerts and real-time PDMP data.
Other day 1 highlights included an expert panel presenting on the successes and challenges of implementing e-detailing within their programs, sharing stories and insights about when, why, and how to connect virtually with providers. Our small group breakout sessions explored the fundamentals of academic detailing, with sessions focused on the basics of an academic detailing visit, how to identify and apply the most reliable sources of evidence-based research, and how to successfully lead an academic detailing program.
Day 1 also included our annual “lightning round” of Field Presentations, a session that highlights aspects of recent academic detailing interventions. Topics included the use of academic detailing to improve maternal and neonatal health through safer opioid prescribing, the effects of academic detailing on pediatric antipsychotic prescribing in the Medicaid population, and increasing access to Nalaxone in New York City through academic detailing. The afternoon also included a talk on Aetna’s opioid strategy and ongoing initiatives, with a focus on leveraging provider and system relationships to incentivize physician engagement and catalyze behavior change.
Dr. Jerry Avorn, Co-Director of NaRCAD, ended the Day 1 presentations with his Annual Academic Detailing Talk, addressing the importance of moving beyond the silos that exist in most healthcare settings, and how academic detailing can encourage the integration and collaboration of roles and initiatives to create synergy. That collaboration and synergy was illustrated during our evening’s Networking Reception, where we launched our new Mentor Match Program to great success, pairing those just starting out in the field with mentors who are part of more established programs.
Day 2 provided similar opportunity for exploration and dialogue about program expansion. We kicked off with Keynote Speaker Tupper Bean, Executive Director from the Centre for Effective Practice (CEP). He discussed CEP’s journey to sustainability as an independent, not-for-profit organization, and reminded the audience that sustainability is a parallel process, not an “add-on”. To further explore sustainability, our Day 2 Plenary highlighted capacity-building strategies, best practices, and opportunities for expansion in clinical outreach education programming.
Day 2 Field Presentations provided opportunities to learn about more active AD programs, including topics such as identifying barriers to opioid prescribing through academic detailing, a team-based model and approach to AD, and a new AD campaign exploring cannabis as an alternative tool for patients experiencing pain. Our afternoon wrapped up with workshops focused on relationship-building for program sustainability, understanding stigma when supporting patients with opioid use disorder (OUD), and building AD campaign materials with limited resources.
We’re grateful to all those who attended, and beyond the 2 days of connection at the conference, we at NaRCAD are committed to creating continuous opportunities for connection, support, and collaboration among all of you who make up our incredible network. Keep an eye out for our Annual Community survey, which we’ll send you in early December to find out what you need as you make an even greater impact in 2020!
-The NaRCAD Team
The genius of the American health care system is its fragmentation. And by ‘genius,’ I mean evil genius, or demented genius. And sadly, also ‘very stable genius,’ since that awful fragmentation has been stubbornly resistant to change. It’s a great way to maximize revenue and expenditures, but not the best way to provide care to patients – and it leads to much of the poor care and unaffordable costs that we face.
In many organizations caring for patients over 65, their medication use is stripped away into Medicare drug benefit plans separate from the way the rest of their clinical care is paid for and organized. Many payors in the private and public sector carve out the use of drugs for specific conditions, removing it from the organization and payment for the care of the illnesses those drugs treat.
Outside integrated health care systems, in many settings the content and costs of prescribing decisions live in a pharmacy silo separate from ambulatory care, which itself is often a world apart from inpatient care, with all of these sectors de-coupled from assessment of clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. But sick people don’t come in silos, and the drugs we prescribe for them drive hospitalization and other clinical outcomes and the enormous human and economic costs of both.
Academic detailing can help pull these domains together in a way that can make medical care more person-based and evidence-based, as well as more cost-effective. The AD interventions that work best start from the global perspective of the practitioner: how to diagnose and care for a given clinical problem, whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, or incontinence, rather than focusing narrowly on simple medication use questions (“Don’t prescribe Drug X; Drug Z isn’t on the formulary”).
This holistic approach is what clinicians and patients need and want, and the one most likely to bring about optimal care decisions. Such a “beyond the drug silo” approach also has implications for the content and focus of the printed clinical materials our programs use, as well as the interactive approach employed by the outreach educator in these programs.
Focusing on silo-busting can also help the academic detailer be seen as a valued colleague helping the clinician improve overall patient care, rather than as a nag, a busybody, or a scold. And as the US health care system continues its slow transition away from the evils of fragmentation to a more rational approach that focuses more on integration of care and less on widget-based revenue maximization, the comprehensive, clinical outcome based vision of academic detailing will increasingly help to pull all the pieces back together where they belong.
Want more? Peruse the archive of Jerry's pieces here on DETAILS.
Jerry Avorn, MD, Co-Director, NaRCAD
Dr. Avorn is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics (DoPE) at Brigham & Women's Hospital. A general internist and drug epidemiologist, he pioneered the concept of academic detailing and is recognized internationally as a leading expert on this topic and on optimal medication use. Read more.
An interview with Zack Dumont, BSP, ACPR, MS, a clinical pharmacist with the RxFiles Academic Detailing Service in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada and a NaRCAD Training Facilitator
by Winnie Ho, NaRCAD Program Coordinator
Overview: The Cannabis Act went into effect in Canada in October of 2018. The legalization of a drug with strong potential for a myriad of clinical uses was followed by many questions from patients and providers alike about its effectiveness, its safety, and lack of previous research. The RxFiles have carried out a cannabinoid academic detailing campaign to address the demand for truth in a time where research has just begun to shed light on previous myths, misconceptions, and clinical promises.
NaRCAD: Zack, thank you for taking the time to speaking with us today! RxFiles has been around for more than 20 years. What do you do you believe is driving the demand for the resources that academic detailing is providing?
Zack: There’s an element of doubt in the information out there, because people have experienced misinformation before. People are often interested in the truth and that’s one of the most amazing things about academic detailing. There is also a desire for practical information that can be used to actually treat patients, and there’s a ton of overlap there. These things are important to these very, very busy providers who want the best for their patients.
NaRCAD: We know that your team is working on a cannabinoid campaign, which can be a nebulous topic. Can you discuss a little more about cannabinoid policy and conceptions in Canada?
Zack: We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of recreational marijuana legalization, but medicinal cannabis has been legal for about two decades. With the legalization of recreational cannabis though, we’re seeing fairly rapid change in perceptions of what the truth is. It’s tough to keep up with.
With academic detailing, it was challenging to decide how to tackle it – can we just talk about the medicinal cannabis side? Or do we have to dive deeper? When we dug into it, it became clear that we also had to talk about the recreational side. For example, the people we provided our services to also wanted to know, “if I decline my patient cannabis prescriptions, what will they be able to get on their own?”
NaRCAD: Did RxFiles choose to launch its cannabinoid campaign with the passage of the Act, or has this been planned for a longer period of time?
Zack: It’s coinciding with our work on pain, following our work on pain and opioids. In addition, because legalization was approaching, the providers had more questions because their patients were asking about cannabis as an alternative to opioids.
NaRCAD: How have provider responses been to the cannabinoid campaign so far?
Zack: It’s welcomed. Our information is usually welcomed. There’s some frustration over how little information there is out there. While frustrating, I think it’s kind of comforting to know that we’re not that far behind. It’s kind of mixed, but at the same time, they’re still happy to get information from a trusted resource. There's a lot of gray area information right now because it's a newer field.
NaRCAD: Right now is a shifting and transformational time, especially with something like cannabinoids with a distinct history of stigma and legalization, even with all this new interest. As an academic detailer, how do you source your information knowing that there isn’t enough research out yet and a lot of gray area information? How do you begin to build a campaign around a topic like this?
Zack: The evidence pyramid gives us the best approach for practical information, for people who are the interface of care. You want to find high quality, synthesized information. Whether its osteoporosis or COPD or pain or cannabis, you start with the guidelines and figure out what kind of information they are providing. We started with some recently published guidelines and it was a synthesis of systematic reviews, and made an attempt to summarize all the evidence of where cannabis was found to be of benefit. We also reviewed the bibliography with all the primary literature and metanalyses.
This process is pretty similar for any academic detailing topic. The other process is going to the people we provide services for, and asking what their patients are asking to treat with cannabis. They tend to ask about cannabis for pain, insomnia, or for things like tremors and that gives us some guidance in terms of what kind of literature we want to find. Of course, we are also looking into what the key messages are in the information we find and distribute. With cannabis, the interesting thing was the lack of information on the different conditions it could be used for. In some ways, it was easier, as weird as it sounds. We didn’t have as much reading to do on that topic.
NaRCAD: Is there any advice you would give any other academic detailing organizations considering this topic for a campaign?
Zack: One, you’re going to have your conversations about stigma. There isn’t a perfect picture of who uses cannabis and it could be absolutely anyone. You’ve got to have the conversation about stigma and get to know your own biases.
In the same vein, we thought about how important word choice and language is. We thought about whether or not we call it cannabis, marijuana, pot, or cannabinoids. Do we call it a medication or a product? All of those words and the considerations that we’ve given opioids - do we call them "addicts", or is it "dependence", and what are the differences between addiction and dependence? The third piece would be that you’ve got to talk to your providers in your local area and find out what their main questions are.
Your job is to provide a service, and if you can find out what their wants and needs are, you’ll provide a far more satisfying service for them and could establish strong relationships that you can build on. There will be a lot of information out there and you will need a lot of leads to help you sort through it all. This won’t be the last time we're addressing this.
NaRCAD: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, and for leading the charge in bringing cannabinoids to the conversation about treatment for pain.
Zack Dumont is an clinical pharmacist with the RxFiles Academic Detailing Service in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada and a new expert facilitator for NaRCAD's training courses. He has been involved with the RxFiles since 2008, with experience in both academic detailing and content development of RxFiles’ evidence-based drug therapy comparison tools. Zack maintains clinical practices for inpatient internal medicine, with more specialized experience in anticoagulation and heart failure. His professional interests include teaching evidence-based medicine, knowledge translation, development of clinical decision supports, collaboration, and leadership.
Zack graduated as a Pharmacist from the University of Saskatchewan in 2008. Following graduation, he completed a hospital pharmacy residency with the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, where he currently serves as a Clinical Support Pharmacist, with involvement in training new staff, precepting pharmacy residents and undergraduate students, and providing clinical support to various health region committees and working groups.
An interview with Dr. Rosemarie Parks, District Health Director, Ware County Public Health Department
OVERVIEW: Ware County, Georgia, was one of 2 sites selected for year 2 of a pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of County and City Health Officials), and our team at NaRCAD (The National Resource Center for Academic Detailing). This exciting pilot program focused on community-level work with local public health departments to develop customized interventions to reduce opioid overdose and death. Six sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected over the two years to be trained in academic detailing; those trained health professionals then conducted 1:1 field visits with front line clinicians to impact behavior around prescribing, treatment referrals, and patient care, all within a rural area. As year 2 comes to a close, we’re showcasing stories from the field.
NaRCAD: Thanks so much for joining us to share how your detailing project has gone in Ware County, Georgia, Dr. Parks. Can you talk to us a bit about how the opioid crisis has presented itself in your community?
Rosemarie: Our agency serves 16 counties in Southeast Georgia, and we have seen the same things across all of these counties. The opioid crisis affects the community across the board; in every sector. Law enforcement is seeking the effects of this crisis, so is healthcare, and people that work with children and families. They all acknowledge that they’re seeing it in their day-to-day work. So many public health topics only affect one sector, but this opioid crisis affects them all.
NaRCAD: With it affecting so many, did you think the strategy of academic detailing would lend itself to improving patient health in response to the opioid crisis in Ware County?
Rosemarie: Being a clinician myself, I did initially see how academic detailing would be a good public health intervention. I thought academic detailing would make the lives of providers better by providing them with evidence-based information and resources. As we discussed during the training with NaRCAD, there’s so much information out there, and it’s really difficult to sort through all of it.
In public health, we’re facilitators, data people, and information sharers. I really believed AD would work when I saw the statistics about Ware County during the 2-day training. Ware County is the highest prescribing county in the state, and the 12th highest prescribing county in the nation. Those statistics are eye-opening, and I believed that would make detailing successful in Ware County by raising awareness of how the opioid crisis is impacting our own community.
NaRCAD: You mentioned being a clinician—you’re also the Public Health Director for your district. How does being both a clinician and the Public Health Director make it easier for you to be successful as a detailer?
Rosemarie: My position allowed me to easily make appointments, and I did not have difficulties getting in the door, like so many other detailers do. I often had visits that were a lot longer than the usual 15 minutes, because clinicians would set aside more time to talk to me. My clinical experience as a primary care physician in private practice for many years made is so that I could relate to the clinicians, and allowed for more honest sharing. I would tell other doctors what worked and didn’t work for my practice, and that made them more comfortable opening up about their own experiences.
NaRCAD: That’s excellent—this is an example of how pre-existing relationships and a fusion of both experience in clinical care as well as public health can really merge to encourage change. What else was unique about your detailing experience?
Rosemarie: Another thing that was unique in Ware County is we did both 1:1 visits, as the original model suggests, as well as group visits. There were many occasions upon which multiple providers and key leadership from a health system were all together in one room. This allowed providers to hear from other providers, and I saw that as a critical dynamic. The conversations continued well after those visits ended, and still continue to this day. It was also important that key leadership was present because they heard exactly how the issue is impacting clinicians and patients, and they have the power to make decisions affecting opioids in their health system.
NaRCAD: It’s great to hear that a group education approach worked so well. What would you say has been the most impactful piece of this intervention?
Rosemarie: I think academic detailing for the opioid crisis worked so well in Ware County because public health is seen as a neutral entity, and because of that, we were able to effectively facilitate these discussions. We do a lot of work in the healthcare community but it is rare that the public health department takes the time to visit an individual practice or provider. During my visits, I witnessed clinicians take in the data about how Ware is one of the highest prescribing counties in the nation, and saw how it immediately encouraged them to want to make a change.
After answering initial questions about where the data came from, clinicians were open to discussing things in more detail, and were consistent in enacting the CDC’s opioid stewardship recommendations, especially consistently using the PDMP. It also gave clinicians the opportunity to express concerns and challenges they face in their daily practices.
NaRCAD: We’re so glad academic detailing has been impactful in your community. What has the greatest challenge been with implementing a successful academic detailing intervention to improve opioid safety in Ware County?
Rosemarie: The overall experience has been fantastic. As we discussed, the providers were really open and honest. For me personally, as a detailer, it was difficult not to feel like I needed to be the one who had all the answers. I handled this by being a link to information, rather than having all of the information myself.
For instance, when a clinician asked a question, or requested a resource I didn’t know about, I’d say something along the lines of, “Let me do some research about that, and when I come back I’ll be sure to have that information.” It helped when I was able to give the disclaimer that “I’m by no means the expert, but I’ve learned a tremendous amount about opioids and the crisis, and I’m here to share some of that information with you. And if I don’t know the answer to something, I can find someone who does.”
NaRCAD: That’s a great way to handle that kind of situation, and academic detailers are indeed the connector to resources, and certainly don’t need to know all of the answers. Well-handled! And speaking of not knowing all the answers, what is something you wish you knew prior to joining the LOOPR Academic Detailing project?
Rosemarie: Personally, there were no big surprises. Everyone did a great job in explanting the process, executing the training, and providing resources. Like anything though, you don’t really get the hang of it until you get those first few visits under your belt and become more comfortable. Overall, this has been a great experience. It was so helpful having additional resources, learning from people that are highly knowledgeable and respected in this field, and being able to share experiences across all LOOPR sites with other detailers who are doing the same work.
Dr. Rosemarie D. Parks serves as the District Health Director for the Southeast Health District (District 9-2, Waycross, GA). She has overseen the 16 county health departments, 3 wellness clinics, and over 50 programs since moving to rural Georgia from Ohio in 2005. Dr. Parks holds a Master of Public Health degree from Youngstown State University, Ohio, and a Medical Doctorate from the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. She is board certified in internal medicine. She is also a member of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
As the District Health Director for the past 14 years, Dr. Parks has overseen telemedicine and teledentistry projects that have expanded new technology to meet the ever-growing needs of a rural population. She has also worked diligently with community partners in planning to combat the opioid epidemic and strategized for innovative solutions to meet the public health needs of the community.
Recruiting Pharmacy Students for Academic Detailing: Reflecting on Successes and Challenges in Boone County, West Virginia
OVERVIEW: Boone County, West Virginia was one of 4 original site selected for years 1 + 2 of a pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of County and City Health Officials), and our team at NaRCAD (The National Resource Center for Academic Detailing). This exciting pilot program focused on community-level work with local public health departments to develop customized interventions to reduce opioid overdose and death. Six sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected over the two years to be trained in academic detailing; those trained health professionals then conducted 1:1 field visits with front line clinicians to impact behavior around prescribing, treatment referrals, and patient care, all within a rural area. As year 2 comes to a close, we’re showcasing stories from the field.
Via NaRCAD, NACCHO, & the CDC’s pilot project, “LOOPR”, we were able to connect with high-burden counties across the U.S. whose rates of high prescribing and high fatal and non-fatal overdoses identified them as a county in need of support. NaRCAD worked on the implementation of an academic detailing initiative over the course of 2017-2019 with Boone County, located in rural West Virginia.
Boone County ranks as the 22nd most vulnerable county across all counties in the United States, with the highest drug overdose mortality rate of all counties in West Virginia. Due to these and other data, Boone was identified as a key county in which to test the implementation of an academic detailing program, in which trained detailers would speak to clinicians and pharmacists about safer prescribing of opioids, checking the state’s prescription drug monitoring program to avoid dangerous co-prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines, and to try and provide treatment, non-opioid therapy, and resources to patients in need.
One of the most unique approaches across all 5 sites of the LOOPR Project was carried out in Boone, with the team of 5 detailers being hand-selected from the nearby University of Charleston West Virginia’s School of Pharmacy. Four of these five recruited detailers were students in training to become pharmacists; one detailer works at the university as a professor of pharmacy. Selecting pharmacy students and faculty allowed for many positive approaches to the project, as well as creating unforeseen challenges.
Programs considering hiring student detailers can often rely on the flexibility of students’ schedules, as well as an enthusiasm and energy for learning that may exist in smaller quantities later in one’s career, when full-time roles in healthcare take priority. While many career-established clinicians may have little room in their schedules to squeeze in 1:1 sessions with fellow clinicians, students may have more of an ability to shift their schedules, especially if they are not yet carrying out residency.
a reflections from Boone County’s Detailing Team, it’s clear that best practices in detailing should also consider the vast amounts of new information that students are absorbing early in their learning careers, and that learning clinical content may take longer to grasp. In addition, the comfort level with new clinical information may lead to less confidence in discussing best practices, especially with clinicians whose careers are much more established. Finding the right balance of tenacity, communications savvy, more time to ramp up to comfort in delivering and leading 1:1 sessions, an additional amount of technical assistance provided at more frequent intervals, and additional practice time or shadowing time with a mentor, can all benefit student detailers who are training to join a clinical outreach education team in a high burden area.
With these elements in place, a student detailer may be poised for success—however, other considerations include the fact that students may have new projects, graduation pending, or life events which may end up limiting their ability to dedicate consistent time to a project rolled out over many months.
Other reflections from the Boone County AD Team included looking carefully at the social climate in which AD interventions of this nature may be implemented. While no county is free of potential clinician-level or community-level stigma, particularly around issues such as opioid use disorder, Boone’s AD team shared a particularly challenging setting within which the local community was not as supportive of evidence-based harm reduction initiatives as would be beneficial. One detailer’s suggestion to raise the visibility of and advocacy for harm reduction included considering a public health campaign prior to a detailing campaign, to ensure that subsequent roll-out of detailing is more sustainable and met with an openness from clinicians to consider behavior change.
NaRCAD’s work with the public health department in Boone County, in partnership with the students and faculty of University of Charleston, West Virginia, provided the kinds of insights critical to learning from a pilot project of this nature. As with many pilot studies, any information gathered can illustrate a clearer picture of the landscape within which public health initiatives can be implemented, so that future projects may have a greater impact. With many thanks to the student and faculty team of Boone County’s Academic Detailing Project team, we and our partners are grateful to have learned so much over the past two years.
Building Accountable Relationships: Critical Conversations on Opioid Safety with Clinicians in Bell County
An Interview with Lutricia Woods, RN
OVERVIEW: Bell County, Kentucky was one of 4 original sites selected for years 1 + 2 of a pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of County and City Health Officials), and our team at NaRCAD (The National Resource Center for Academic Detailing). This exciting pilot program focused on community-level work with local public health departments to develop customized interventions to reduce opioid overdose and death. Six sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected over the two years to be trained in academic detailing; those trained health professionals then conducted 1:1 field visits with front line clinicians to impact behavior around prescribing, treatment referrals, and patient care, all within a rural area. As year 2 comes to a close, we’re showcasing stories from the field.
NaRCAD: Hi Lutricia, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us about your work as an academic detailer for the opioid crisis in your community. Can you talk to us about how the opioid crisis has presented itself in Bell County, Kentucky?
Lutricia: There’s not a family in this community that hasn’t been touched by the opioid crisis in some way. Twenty years ago, I worked in hospitals as an RN discharging patients and providing them with their prescriptions as they prepared to go home. At the time, I was shocked at the rates of prescriptions of opioids with benzodiazepines, and patients thinking it was safe. From my perspective, in our community, the opioid crisis really began by doctors beginning to prescribe many opioids to their patients without education or an understanding of the dangers.
Three years ago, I was working on a project at a middle school, and was surprised by the number of grandparents that were raising their grandchildren because their children were either in jail, or otherwise affected by opioid use disorder [OUD]. In Bell County, we also have so many people unable to find a job because they cannot pass a drug test, and once that happens, they return to use because of the stressors of not being able to find a job and pay their bills, and it becomes a challenging cycle to overcome.
NaRCAD: Thanks for sharing your perspective, Lutricia—it can be true that some clinicians don’t see the impact of their role in prescribing opioids, and many times may believe that people who develop an opioid use disorder do so because of a moral failing, rather than seeing it as a medical issue. Did you think 1:1 outreach, provided directly to prescribing clinicians, would lend itself to improving patient health in response to the opioid crisis in this community?
Lutricia: I desperately hoped it would. The opioid crisis is very personal to me, as it is to many people in our community. Years ago, my mom had 2 surgeries within 6 months. She had complications from one of those surgeries, and as a result, she was in the hospital for 6 weeks, during which time her care providers did not wean her off of the opioids she took immediately after the surgery. She returned home with prescriptions for opioids at a high dosage, and she developed opioid use disorder.
My mother’s doctor, with whom I worked, reached out to have a conversation with me. He told me that I had to be the one to intervene with my mother because she continued requesting more opioids. I conveyed that I wanted her to discontinue taking them, and that he needed to assist us in finding a way to do this, as I felt his prescribing without discussing safety caused the initial issue. His response was that he wanted to “keep her happy.”
My mother struggled for the rest of her life; she was able to completely wean off and discontinue using them, but it required a lot of counseling. As a result of this experience, I became a drug education coordinator, as I really wanted to do my part to mend the opioid crisis by providing drug education for every student in the county. And then, of course, I became an academic detailer for this project over the course of the past 2 years, which involves clinician education about safety and risk of opioid prescribing.
NaRCAD: Thank you for sharing that Lutricia; the opioid crisis is personal to so many of us. What would you say has been the most impactful piece of this academic detailing intervention as you went into the field and spoke with clinicians?
Lutricia: The most impactful piece has been the ways in which we’re trying to hold clinicians accountable for their roles in the crisis, as well as leveraging their ability to improve things based on their relationships with their patients. For many of the doctors and nurses I met with, our conversations and educational resources have made them more thoughtful and intentional about their role. They seem to realize more that they have the power to decrease the number of prescriptions they write, the length of time for which they write them, and talk more with their patients about safety.
NaRCAD: That’s fantastic. What about the most challenging part of this project—what’s been hardest about meeting with clinicians to talk about the opioid crisis in Bell County?
Lutricia: Getting an appointment to go in and meet with these clinicians has been so frustrating and challenging. I always say that the receptionists in doctors’ offices are the most powerful people in the world. If you can’t get through them, you’re not going to get what you need, and it is the same with the patients. I couldn’t even get in to see my husband’s doctor, who we’ve known since we were kids. My husband had an appointment, so I resorted to going with him, and did a detailing visit on the spot with his doctor. This same doctor ended up changing practices, and it’s been a lot easier to get into that practice—all because of the office manager. Those relationships are important.
NaRCAD: Getting in the door is definitely a consistent challenge across many programs. We’ve heard from other detailers that practice makes perfect, and sometimes it’s easier to gain access when you actually show up and request a meeting in person. What else did you learn after being in the field?
Lutricia: When I was “volun-told” that I would be attending a training, and doing “academic detailing”, I didn’t truly understand what it was or what the impact would be. I’m a big picture person, and I couldn’t see the big picture at all; I went into that training not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t until I actually started making visits that I could start to see the seeds we were planting to begin to have an impact.
Share your thoughts on this piece in the comments section below, or learn more about the LOOPR project and other opioid safety academic detailing initiatives here and on our Detailing Directory.
Guest Blog Interview: David O’Riordan, MPharm, MPH, PhD
Senior Pharmacovigilance Officer
Pharmaceutical Care Research Group
University College Cork, Ireland
NaRCAD: Thanks for speaking with us, David! Tell us a bit about your professional background in healthcare, and how you became involved in academic detailing.
David: I am a pharmacist by training, and a couple years ago I decided to carry out a PhD in Clinical Pharmacy at the University College Cork. As part of the PhD, I completed a systematic review examining how pharmacists can be utilized to optimize prescribing in primary care, including through academic detailing. After finding NaRCAD’s resources through a Google search, I registered for the NaRCAD conference in Boston. Dr. Fischer, Dr. Avorn, and all the other attendees at the conference were very encouraging.
I left the conference determined and enthused to lead an academic detailing intervention back home. Dr. Avorn and Dr. Fisher put me in touch with Eimir Hurley, a PhD scholar in Ireland, who formerly worked in academic detailing at Alosa Health, and who ended up being a great help in executing the intervention.
NaRCAD: That’s terrific—it sounds like you had a great team at your disposal to begin this work. Can you tell us a little about the unique characteristics of the Irish health system?
David: Ireland has a public and private health system. Public patients are more likely to wait longer for appointments. Private insurance is a substantial cost to individuals, though. The health care system is quite fractured unless you’re a private patient. Pharmaceutical drug representatives are also allowed to visit primary health practices here.
NaRCAD: In April, you published a study titled “Pharmacist-led academic detailing intervention in primary care: a mixed methods feasibility study” in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy. Why did you choose urinary incontinence as a clinical topic?
David: As this was a feasibility study, I decided to use one topic as part of the intervention. I organized a meeting with a group of general practitioners (physicians) who would be involved in the academic detailing intervention. The topic of urinary incontinence was chosen by the physicians because they highlighted that it was a topic not discussed regularly among themselves, and currently their only source of information is provided by pharmaceutical drug representatives.
NaRCAD: What barriers to success did you come across in your feasibility study?
David: For this project, I was the only academic detailer. I started detailing after going to the two-day Basics Academic Detailing Training in Boston in May 2016. In some cases, during the roll out of the intervention I found it difficult to get past the practice manager, but luckily I had learned strategies on getting in the door in Boston that were useful in my effort. On a few occasions, the practice managers didn’t follow through on connecting me with the physicians. I got around this by utilizing physicians I knew in other practices to gain access to their practice. A lot of it came down to how well you know the physicians. I was lucky that they trusted me when I spoke to them. When I did get to meet with physicians, they all seemed very enthusiastic.
NaRCAD: Can you talk a bit more about how receptive physicians were to academic detailing?
David: Absolutely! This was a mixed methods study, so my colleague Eimir Hurley carried out focus groups after my detailing sessions to evaluate the feasibility of the intervention. Eimir conducted the focus groups on my behalf to reduce bias. The physicians liked that I wasn’t from a pharmaceutical company and that the sessions only lasted 10-15 minutes. They liked that local physicians had chosen the topic, and I wasn’t coming with my own agenda.
NaRCAD: How are you or others going to use your feasibility study results to implement across the country?
David: I am currently not involved in academic detailing, but I hope to be again in the future. If someone from another part of Ireland read my paper, they would recognize that physicians are very willing to take part in academic detailing. From my experience physicians didn’t feel threatened and really enjoyed the interaction. They liked the interactive style of the visits, and the way that that the evidence was delivered. My study provides a platform for other researchers to detail to a wider group of physicians in Ireland.
NaRCAD: Anything else?
David: I am very grateful for the NaRCAD team for providing the academic detailing training. I knew literally nothing about academic detailing, and through meeting their team members Sarah Ball, Amanda Kennedy, Mary Liz Doyle-Tadduni, and others, I felt encouraged to go back and detail. I was the only person from Ireland at the training, and the NaRCAD team gave me some useful feedback. I really enjoyed academic detailing, and I was especially proud when my paper was published. I discovered there is an appetite for this educational intervention in Ireland.
David O’Riordan, MPharm, MPH, PhD
Senior Pharmacovigilance Officer
Pharmaceutical Care Research Group
University College Cork, Ireland
David holds a Masters in Pharmacy (MPharm), Masters in Public Health (MPH), Post Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (PG Cert) and a PhD in Clinical Pharmacy.
He has extensive experience as a community pharmacist. He previously worked as a Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy in University College Cork (UCC). While there, he contributed to and assisted in the delivery of research-led teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level. He also supervised on a number of research projects. He was a clinical trials pharmacist involved in the Thyroid Hormone Replacement for Subclinical Hypo-Thyroidism Trial (TRUST). This was a randomised placebo controlled clinical trial comparing levothyroxine to placebo in community dwelling older adults (≥65 years) with subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH). He is also a tutor on the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) Academy. This educational initiative was developed by the IPU to support pharmacist engagement with Continuous Professional Development (CPD). He is currently the Senior Pharmacovigilance Officer at the HRB-Clinical Research Facility, UCC.
As we reflect on the two major public health topics we’ve been focusing on as we’ve traveled to public health departments across the United States, we’re learning that the public health detailers we’ve been training are discussing much more than just evidence with the clinicians they’re meeting. When we train new health educators on the methods of interactive, 1:1 education, we’re asked most often to customize our curriculum to cover two of the most highly stigmatized topics today: the opioid crisis, and HIV prevention. As the topic of stigma has come up at every straining we’ve implemented this year, our training team has added dedicated time to our trainings to discuss ways to address clinician stigma that arises during 1:1 detailing visits.
So, what, exactly, is stigma? It’s defined as “a mark of shame or discredit,” and appears in numerous ways, including through labeling, stereotyping, discrimination, and social inclusion. One of the biggest myths about stigma is that some people carry it, and some people don’t. However, stigma is not binary, and we all possess the ability to stigmatize another group that we perceive to be an ‘outsider’ group. Historically, stigma has appeared mainly in the form of social inclusion, with those identified as ‘others’ being treated as societal outcasts.
The interactive approach of AD is well-suited to address clinician stigma by creating a space in which the detailer can ask the kinds of needs assessment questions that can identify the source of these stigmatizing perspectives. When a 1:1 visit is facilitated by a skilled clinical outreach educator who is curious about clinicians’ experiences and genuinely wants to help implement sustainable change, many clinicians feel comfortable in sharing beliefs, identifying patterns, and building relationships based on trust and service.
Our language and beliefs will continue to evolve as we continue to learn, encourage one another, and be empathic. We can do this by holding each other accountable in a non-punitive way, pairing our best intentions with education to use inclusive, supportive language, and committing to holding one another accountable by identifying moments when we witness stigma, in order to correct, reflect, and move forward. We’ve seen the potential for change; the medical community’s understanding of substance use disorder and HIV prevention has improved significantly over the past few decades.
Outside of our training settings, where else can we start? We’d very much like to hear from you, our community members, about how you’ve experienced or witnessed stigmatizing behavior as it has occurred within the healthcare setting. If you’re an outreach educator, tell us about a time you’ve seen stigma arise from a clinician’s perspective, and what you thought was behind it. If you’re a patient or a provider, talk to us about ways in which you’ve experienced or carried stigma. Keeping a dialogue open and encouraging sharing is one of many steps towards a connected medical community that embraces its patients, clinicians, educators, and supporters with compassion, clarity, and support.
Thanks for reading, and please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!
The NaRCAD Team
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.