Director’s Letter: Mike Fischer, MD, MS
The opioid crisis has been recognized as a major national public health problem, but it actually reflects a collection of many thousands of local crises playing out in individual cities and counties. Each region faces a distinctive set of challenges, driven by economic and social factors, local medical practice patterns, political environment and pressures, and many other considerations.
Identifying and implementing effective solutions to address the opioid crisis requires developing an understanding of how these individual challenges interact, and what strategies are most effective in specific situations--one of which is academic detailing.
The NaRCAD team is partnering with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and NACCHO (the National Association of City and County Health Officials) on an exciting pilot program working with local health officials to develop customized interventions to reduce opioid overdose and death. Four sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected: Boone County, Kentucky; Bell County, West Virginia; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Dayton, Ohio.
Public health officials at each site identified a wide range of local stakeholders to participate in developing a community action plan and recruited trainees to complete NaRCAD’s academic detailing training course, which we customized to address the unique challenges that each community faces. We also developed a specialized online toolkit for these sites, including discussion boards, local resources, and printable resources.
We traveled to each site in March and April of this year, facilitating hands-on trainings in the techniques of academic detailing in alignment with the CDC prescribing guidelines. Trainees came from diverse backgrounds, including pharmacists, nurses, public health officials, and students in the health professions, including pharmacy students, dental students, and medical school students.
Plans for implementing AD varied by site depending on the local health care environment; some sites focused more heavily on appropriate prescribing of opioids by clinicians, while others prioritized increasing referral rates for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD), including access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
As the AD trainees at each pilot site continue their work in the field, we’ll learn more about how these diverse strategies succeed, and how we can support adaptations to make academic detailing more impactful. This important collaboration has allowed us to form invaluable partnerships with CDC and NACCHO, leveraging national resources to improve local responses to this epidemic through plans that respond more precisely to local needs and priorities.
We’re excited for this pilot program to serve as a model for future opioid safety AD interventions, and we’ll be providing updates here on the blog. In the meantime, tell us: what's happening in your local community around the opioid crisis? Sound off in the comments section below, and let us know if you think clinician-facing education could be a strategy that would improve outcomes for your community. And join us for our next training and our terrific annual conference to learn more about this and other exciting AD projects.
Michael Fischer, MD, MS | Director of 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.
by Joy Leotsakos, PharmD
Who We Are. The Academic Detailing Service (ADS) of the Atrius Health Clinical Pharmacy Program provides clinically appropriate, evidence-based, cost-effective medication management in a multidisciplinary team setting. Our Clinical Pharmacy Program includes 15 clinical pharmacists (CPs) serving nineteen Internal Medicine and Family Medicine (IM/FM) ambulatory care practice locations. In the past four years, our program has evolved and transformed through evaluating our impact, absorbing and implementing internal feedback, and collaborating with others in the field, including NaRCAD.
Our Start. As the program manager of our ADS, I’ve seen our service grow and change. When we began our program in 2011, it was as an administrative mandate to meet with all IM/FM prescribers once per fiscal quarter to deliver messages about cost-effective prescribing and clinical quality. We started by formulating a menu of topics to cover in our ADS work each quarter, including individual clinician prescribing reports reflecting performance on prescribing initiatives from the Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee, specific questions to survey clinicians on a clinical topic, targeted education for low performers on prescribing initiatives, and various other ‘hot topic’ clinical issues. CPs detailed individual clinicians via formal 1:1 scheduled appointments, and also did so less formally (such as by catching them in the hallways) or in larger groups during department meetings.
Is it Working? We documented our ADS activities by checking off the individual clinicians we detailed each quarter. At that time, there was no formal training for our CPs on how to conduct a detailing meeting. Unfortunately, this method of creating content for visits soon resulted in a large menu of topics so varied that each quarter’s detailing became unwieldy and too broadly focused. And our documentation, while it gave us a general sense of the number of clinicians detailed, did not tell us anything about the quality of this detailing.
Room for Improvement. Our group is fortunate in that our ADS activities have always been accepted and even expected by our IM/FM clinicians. We experienced almost no clinician resistance to our educational meetings. But in 2013, when attending one of NaRCAD’s 2-day Academic Detailing Training sessions, I learned that we could make changes to improve our services, as well as my own skills as a detailer. As a result, we altered the format of our ADS program, choosing to detail clinicians in a 1-1 or small group format of less than 4. We also selected a goal of 90% of clinicians receiving detailing at least once every quarter.
Evaluating Impact. We began evaluating the impact of the changes we’d made to our ADS, specifically choosing to look at its impact on a discretely measurable topic: reducing the unnecessary ordering of an ALT test (alanine transaminase) in patients on the ’statin’ cholesterol-lowering medications. We were able to demonstrate that our detailing of all IM/FM clinicians led to significant reductions in ALT ordering and meaningful cost avoidance for our organization.
Asking for Feedback. With NaRCAD’s support, we further refined our program in 2014 based upon feedback from an internal focus group. By soliciting honest feedback from the CPs about their detailing experiences, I discovered considerable variation in how they approached the menu of topics provided each quarter and came to understand that the continuous process of visiting with each clinician at their sites often felt stale and repetitive.
New Approach, New Results. We revised our ADS workflow to tie each round of clinician appointments directly to a specific and single P&T prescribing initiative. Furthermore, we developed a method to tag low performing clinicians for an ‘intense’ ADS visit and higher performers for a ‘touch’ ADS visit. We began this new workflow with an initiative to improve the use of evidence-based beta-blockers in patients with heart failure, a quality measure for the Medicare Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) project. Using this new approach, clinical pharmacists were able to deliver a fresh and meaningful message to the right prescribers, resulting in a change from 73.6% to 97.8%prescribing of evidence-based beta-blockers in this patient population.
Partnering with NaRCAD for Ongoing Learning. In March 2015, we coordinated with NaRCAD again, and they provided our group of clinical pharmacists with a 2.5 hour workshop to enhance our AD skills. I’d encourage anyone who does this type of educational outreach to make use of this invaluable resource. Of course, our Atrius Health Academic Detailing Service will continue to grow and change as we find additional ways to improve our workflows and messages. I look forward to continued collaboration with NaRCAD and with others in the field, so that we can all keep learning from each other and improve health outcomes through effective academic detailing.
Bio: Joy Leotsakos is a senior clinical pharmacist and the program manager for the Academic Detailing Service (ADS) of the Atrius Health Clinical Pharmacy Program. Joy joined Atrius Health in 2007 and became the program manager for the ADS program in 2012. Prior to joining Atrius Health, Joy worked as an assistant professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University in Boston, MA and provided ambulatory care pharmacy services to the South End Community Health Center also in Boston. Joy graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy and then completed her residency in Ambulatory Care and Community Pharmacy at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Joy is the mother of one son, and enjoys salsa dancing, cycling and running in the summer and skiing in the winter. You can reach Joy by email at email@example.com.
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