Navigating a Disorienting Healthcare Landscape | Jerry Avorn, MD, NaRCAD Co-Director
First, about the grammar. Readers under 65 will be forgiven if they never heard of the daytime television quiz show “Who Do You Trust?” that aired from 1957 to 1963. In it, male contestants were asked if they wanted to answer a question or whether they ‘trusted’ their wife to do so. Concerns by snarky little kids like me that it really should have been “Whom Do You Trust?” did not diminish the show’s popular appeal. Gender issues went totally undiscussed.
All grown up now and confronting a changing health care landscape, that still-sometimes-snarky little boy often wonders, as do many of my clinician colleagues, who can be trusted in the world of medical information, especially in relation to prescription drugs. Gone are the simpler times when one had to worry only about whether the drug ads and sales reps were really presenting a balanced picture of all the evidence, which was a hard enough challenge.
We now know that we also have to be concerned about off-label marketing campaigns offering impermissible (and often downright deceptive) statements about efficacy – excesses for which over $16 billion has now been paid to state attorneys general in legal penalties and settlements.
As I’ve noted previously, the courts and the FDA are also moving toward much more permissiveness with company claims about efficacy and safety. And in last year’s 21st Century Cures Act, Congress instructed the FDA to be more open to accepting lower standards for drug approval.
Then there are newer sources of information whose trustworthiness is not always clear. More and more, this includes the prescription benefit management (PBM) companies, which seem to be holding on to an ever-larger fraction of the funds flowing through their rich payment pipelines, yet provide little transparency about who gets to keep what rebate dollars, and for what reason. Once billed as cost-savings protectors and comparative effectiveness gurus, the PBMs are under increasing scrutiny, and asked to make their financial data transparent and to clarify just who’s saving what for whom (or is it ‘for who?’).
Nor can we always be sure what angle the payors are playing. Why is Drug A on the formulary, but not its sibling Drug B? It may be an astute purchasing decision, or just the result of a rebate hack. And how much are prior authorization rules and growing co-payments designed to promote evidence-based care, or other less worthy goals? Even clinical guidelines put out by third parties vary from the most rigorous to pretty sketchy.
This leads to one good answer to the ungrammatical question in our title. With these galloping changes in an ever-more marketplace-oriented health care system, every prescriber needs and deserves a smart, superbly informed colleague to rely on to get the best possible syntheses of the clinical evidence – someone who has no other agenda or motivation other than getting the facts right and transmitting them faithfully.
Each year, we can take less comfort in counting only on FDA-approved indications, or payor policies, or PBM choices, or advertised claims. The more compromised each of these sources becomes, the more we’ll need ‘honest brokers’ like well-trained and un-conflicted academic detailers, whose only duty is to communicate the fairest evidence summaries as effectively as possible. Like lightweight clothing in an era of global warming, it’s a need that’s only going to increase.
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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.
Behind the Scenes with Dr. Doyle-Tadduni, NaRCAD Training Facilitator
Editor’s note: In this series, DETAILS asks Academic Detailing (AD) Techniques Training facilitators how they lead by example, challenge participants, and ensure that trainees are ready to go out into the field. Dr. Doyle-Tadduni focused on her insights and tips to success in providing excellent clinical education by building strong detailer-to-clinician relationships based on evidence, clarity, and “intrinsic trust.”
NaRCAD: Hi, Mary Liz! We’re looking forward to learning more from you about what it’s like to train prospective academic detailers. But first, tell us a little about how you became involved in detailing.
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: I began working as an academic detailer about 10 years ago in Pennsylvania with the Independent Drug Information Service, which is sponsored by PACE (Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly). My clinical background in nursing and my teaching background within various university settings has served me well in this role as a clinical educator.
NaRCAD: What does a day of academic detailing look like for you? What successes and challenges do you see?
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: My territory encompasses the westerns suburbs of Philadelphia where I visit physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. I see these providers in a variety of settings, including private practices, university-affiliated practices, and outpatient health care systems.
Since AD is a new concept to many practitioners, it’s essential to start your visit by educating providers about the importance of academic detailing and how it will benefit them and their patients. In this way, I’ve developed many long-standing relationships with providers who have said that AD has been very beneficial for their individual practices. It’s very gratifying in a follow-up appointment to hear that a provider has taken the evidence you provided and put it into practice, creating a positive outcome for patients.
NaRCAD: How do you build strong relationships with the clinicians you visit?
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: There needs to be an intrinsic sense of trust between a detailer and the provider. You may not gain the trust in the relationship during your initial visits, but when you provide clinicians with a full understanding of the importance of your visit, along with presenting educational materials that are credible and evidence-based, you promote trust and strengthen the relationship and gain clinician commitment to changing behavior for the better.
NaRCAD: You’ve facilitated quite a few trainings with us at NaRCAD. Tell us more about the course, and why you enjoy doing it.
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: This course is a great support for both new and seasoned trainees in enhancing their detailing skills, as well as program managers who oversee a clinical education program and need a greater understanding of how best to run an effective program. At the beginning of the training, the trainees absorb AD theoretical content and techniques, and on Day 2, they’re actively practicing the techniques and role playing different educational encounters in small groups.
The program trainees have been wonderful people to meet! I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the United States, and some from Australia, Portugal, and Europe. It’s been very interesting being involved with the trainings and hearing about health care in other regions of the US and abroad. Despite the miles that separate all of us in our different demographics, we all have similar challenges in our respective health care systems.
NaRCAD: As a trainer, you “play” the role of the clinicians during breakout group sessions, presenting different personalities as well as various behavioral and content-based objections to the material or the visit. Tell us more about this part of the course.
Mary Liz practices with a trainee, teaching the importance of showcasing AD as a service that will create better outcomes for clinicians’ practices and patients.
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: We present the trainees with many different role play scenarios where they can actively practice overcoming obstacles that get in the way of earning clinician commitment. Finding the right delivery of your messaging can be very challenging, depending on the environment, and every detailer will have a unique set of potential obstacles to face at each visit.
The key is to focus on the evidence, so that practitioners can realize how beneficial it will be to their practice. The training’s small group role play practice sessions provides trainees ample opportunity to practice, ask questions, perfect their skills, and be prepared to face inevitable obstacles in their own future visits.
NaRCAD: What do NaRCAD trainees need to have to be ready to succeed as a detailer? How does our 2-day training help to get them ready for success?
Dr. Doyle-Tadduni: The trainees need to have an expert knowledge base of the clinical topic and related materials they’ll be presenting during a visit. They also need to present AD as an on-going resource. With busy practitioners being so tightly scheduled through the day, programs designed to assist them in improving how their practice runs is a plus. By the end of the two days of training, the trainees will have a strong foundation of clinical education techniques, and they’ll be forming ideas about implementing these efforts in their respective programs.
NaRCAD: Any closing thoughts or advice for new trainees, or first time detailers as they prepare to head into the field?
As long as you’re well-versed on the material you’re delivering, and you’re presenting yourself as an “ambassador of the evidence”, you’ll have the tools you need to ensure that an academic detailing visit is truly successful.
An Interview with Paula Walker, Clinical Pharmacist
Baylor, Scott & White Health | Dallas, Texas
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into care redesign and transitional care? I grew up in the area of Inman Square Pharmacy in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After graduating from Northeastern University in 1990, I began my career in community pharmacy. Soon after I entered the pharmaceutical industry, I spent many years representing the biological division of Rhone-Poulenc. I continued to keep connected with public health by practicing in the community part time; I’ve also been serving in a family practice clinic for over 8 years now. Three years ago, upon recommendation from our clinic director, I joined The Institute of Chronic Disease and Care Redesign at Baylor Scott and White Health in Dallas.
Tell us about the institute. What does your team focus on with regards to providing transitional care? What approach do you take?
Our multidisciplinary team focuses on improving outcomes among chronically ill older adults. Our innovative approach includes using advanced technology to identify patients at most risk for readmission. With a focus on heart failure, COPD, and pneumonia, patients are identified and supported as they transition from one level of care to the next. Our transitional care team encourages each specialty to work at the very top of their license to assist patients whose recovery is complicated by cognitive impairment, frailty, and social issues. Our team shares offices together so each discipline is available to all team members at all times. A strong team and constant communication is the key to our success.
What does a typical day or week look like for you in this field? How do you incorporate academic detailing techniques into your work?
My role is to perform the medication reconciliation on all of my patients and communicate any concerns with the appropriate providers. I attend weekly rounding with my team and need to be able to make and support any medication recommendations. In terms of using academic detailing techniques, our team practices evidence-based medicine in the care and treatment of our population with chronic disease. It’s also key for a pharmacist in this role to be able to communicate to providers quickly and effectively regarding drug selection, dosage, and titration. Learning and practicing the skills required to communicate effectively in this environment is essential. In a typical day I will consult with a geriatric specialist, cardiology, nephrology, APRN, social worker, and corporate administration. That is a lot of communicating!
You attended our Academic Detailing Techniques Training a few years back. What parts of the program worked well for you, and what are the most useful resources or information that you’re still using today? I found the skills learned during the NaRCAD training to be useful and confidence building. There is an art to being able to research information then applying it to support a recommendation in a short amount of time. NaRCAD brings together professionals from different disciplines that are focused on improving the communication of science-based information in their practice or facility. It is useful to connect with others that require these skills in their work. The small class size made it very easy to meet all the participants and learn from their experiences. I believe you can never be too experienced, and I constantly learn from the experience of others.
What are some future successes you’re looking forward to in your work and in the field in general? As we prepare to expand the Transitional Care Model at Baylor Scott and White Health under the population health infrastructure, I look forward to the pharmacist’s role to expand as well. Our goal of disease management, well above the national standard, will require evidence based medicine and the sharing of clinical information to all members of the care team. I look forward to continuing my relationship with NaRCAD—together we can help each other transform care, resulting in an improvement in the quality of life for our patients. And I’m looking forward to NaRCAD’s 3rd International Conference on Academic Detailing this November in Boston!
Biography: Paula Walker, Clinical Pharmacist, joined the Baylor Scott & White Health Transitional Care Team in 2012. Paula is the team pharmacist and oversees all medication reconciliation for their older adult population with heart failure, COPD, and pneumonia. Prior to joining BSW, Paula has worked in community pharmacy, clinic pharmacy (still active), and the pharmaceutical industry. Paula holds BS in Pharmacy from Northeastern University.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.