Featuring: Carol Furlong, LCMHC, MAC, MBA, Director of Substance Use Disorders, Elliot Hospital
Jill MacGregor, APRN, Catholic Medical Center, & Katie Sawyer, LICSW, MLADC, Director, Integrated Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders, Network4Health/Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester
Interview by Isabel Evans, Fellow, NACCHO, in partnership with NaRCAD
EDITOR'S NOTE: Manchester, New Hampshire, was the third site of four selected for a 2018 pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of County and City Health Officials), and 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. Four sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected 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, with Manchester’s team focusing primarily on access to Medication Assisted Treatment [MAT]. As year 1 comes to a close, we’re showcasing successes from the field.
Thanks for talking with us about your work in Manchester, New Hampshire. Can you tell us about your team? How were detailers chosen to represent the health department for this pilot project?
Carol: Tim Soucy, from the Manchester Department of Health, contacted representatives at each of our organizations and gave a little bit of information about the training. He asked if our organizations had particular people that might be interested, and my supervisor thought of me, since I was in the middle of developing a MAT program for my organization. I jumped at the chance to participate.
Jill: My organization received the same email, and as the primary care lead nurse practitioner, I was considered the most appropriate to participate.
Katie: The invitation came from the site that received the CDC grant (City Health Department). The invitation was disseminated among a number of local human service/health agencies who are part of a Network of agencies as a result of our 1115 Waiver partnership.
The NaRCAD team came to your site back in March, 2018, helping you get ready to be ‘in the field’ and talk to clinicians about the opioid crisis. Tell us how that went, and how you applied what you learned in training.
Carol: I’m a naturally shy person who dislikes being the center of attention, so I was incredibly nervous about the role plays during training. The turned out to be invaluable, since I use the skills I developed through practicing and receiving feedback during every visit. The role plays prepared me so well for meeting with providers, and I go into the conversations feeling confident and comfortable. When they ask questions, I feel that I know how to answer, or where to turn for more information, such as the wonderful handouts available on the NaRCAD website.
Jill: For me, learning how to hold a discussion as a detailer was the most important element of the training. I learned how to frame a conversation using open-ended questions, which allows the discussion to progress. Understanding how to simultaneously get a provider’s perspective, while also giving them the information they need, is a critical detailing skill.
Katie: We were able to role play, which has proven very helpful out in the field to stay focused, on topic, and empathetic to the position of each clinician that I speak to. The handouts that NaRCAD provided have easy to read information and great graphics, so they have also proved useful for staying on track with the key messages during detailing visits, along with providing supplemental information.
The opioid epidemic has affected many communities in unique ways. How have local clinicians responded to your visits? What do clinicians in Manchester see as major barriers to improving health for their patients struggling with this issue?
Carol: Clinicians can be a little skeptical at first, since they’re often expecting that I’m going to try to “sell them” on something. When I focus on listening to their experiences and their concerns, I’m able to gently address those concerns and give resources or suggestions. Even just having a discussion can help clinicians to feel that you’re interested in how they feel, and that you genuinely want to help them – I would describe some clinicians as “dumbstruck” from our conversations, because they’re preparing to do battle with me, but they instead come to see me as a resource, and are more willing to meeting with me.
As for challenges, we deal with a fair amount of stigmatization of substance use. It’s a major barrier, and we’ve had to spend a lot of time addressing that in my organization. Another barrier for clinicians is a preconceived notion that providing MAT is an onerous process, and too time-consuming to add into their schedules. And these two barriers really complement each other in a bad way – I often get providers saying that MAT is too much work and that their MAT patients will just end up using opioids again and ending up back in the emergency room. Breaking down these misconceptions about MAT and getting to the root of the stigma against MAT is a big challenge.
However, we’re approaching these challenges with education and lots of conversations, since we’ve found that helping our staff to get a better sense of addiction as a disease is really invaluable to making them more open to MAT and treating people with opioid use disorder. The timing of the academic detailing initiative couldn’t have been better for my organization, because having conversations about addiction leads well into having conversations about MAT, and vice versa. Engaging in academic detailing has opened up a whole new avenue of clinician education for me.
Jill: Because of my role at my health system, I talk to providers about many different topics and they’re used to me approaching them, which has definitely helped give me and automatic “in” and bring up sensitive topics. My institutional knowledge helps too, since I can answer questions specific to my organization and our various programs or resources around opioids.
A major challenge I face is that providers don’t think they have the time and resources to implement MAT into primary care, and they don’t feel they have the behavioral health support to do so successfully. However, I’ve found that this is often based around a lack of knowledge, since when I ask more probing questions about MAT, it’s often clear that they don’t really know much about it!
Providers will come to conclusions without getting the right education, and I find that they often “change their tune” when I give them more information. Providers are also hesitant about writing a prescription for a MAT patient if there isn’t someone in their office who can talk to the patient about addiction itself. Right now, we’re working on integrating behavioral health clinicians into primary care, which I’m hopeful will help with this very real concern.
Katie: There has been some hesitation in sharing with detailers, in regards to professional experience, as I believe most clinicians are on edge in trying to do the best that they can to address patient needs, while also supporting alternatives to typical or historical use of prescribed opioids. With an empathetic and interested stance, I’ve found that most clinicians are open with their experience and struggles.
There are a number of themes among clinicians for challenges that I’ve noticed, including a limited behavioral health workforce to support what they view as an ideal MAT protocol, which would include individual and group counseling, regular urine toxicology screens, and wraparound services along the continuum of care. In addition, there is a concern among providers about the potential diversion of Buprenorphine by patients.
Katie: It has been rewarding to meet with each clinician for different reasons – I would view success as learning more about the clinicians that are already on board and excited to pursue getting a waiver, as it gets them talking and feeling a renewed energy to share with others. I view my conversations with clinicians who are not interested in pursuing a waiver as equally rewarding, since it allows for both of us to share and hear the other’s perspective. We can agree that the work is needed and challenging, no matter how we decide to go about addressing the needs of our patients.
Lastly, what advice would you tell new detailers? What do you wish you knew when you started out?
Carol: I would tell new detailers to take a deep breath and know that you’re ready for this – NaRCAD does such a good job of training us as detailers, and you just feel ready.
Jill: I would say to recognize that everyone has a natural process for adapting to new ideas. You’ll get some providers who are ready and energized, some who will want to watch others in action before they jump in, and some who simply may not be interested. It can be frustrating when providers aren’t interested in your topic or resources, but understand that this is natural, and don’t take it personally! Every visit will be different, and that’s okay.
Katie: My advice is to remember that success is not defined as “convincing” someone that the topic of your detailing visit is “the right answer”. In fact, trying to convince another person of anything is essentially walking against waves. Instead, be open to listening to that person and their experiences, and then value the experience that they have had. This is more likely to open the conversation to allow you to share your wealth of information and experiences. It’s all about planting seeds.
Ideas? Comments? Questions? Sound off on this blog in the comments section below!
Featuring: Robin Tuttle, RN, ER Nurse, Academic Detailer, NaRCAD Training Alumnus
Interview by Kabaye Diriba, Senior Program Analyst, NACCHO, in partnership with NaRCAD
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bell County, Kentucky, was the first site of four selected for a 2018 pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of City and County Health Officials), and 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. Four sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected 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 1 comes to a close, we’re showcasing successes from the field.
Thanks for talking with us about your on this pilot project with NACCHO, the CDC, and NaRCAD, working to support local efforts in your community.
Robin: What we’ve been doing has been a breath of fresh air! I'm proud to be a part of it, and happy to help in any way that I can.
Tell us how local detailers were selected for this project—what kinds of professional backgrounds make up your diverse team members?
Robin: I was asked by a co-worker, another detailer, who thought “I know this really outgoing, outspoken person that might fit the team.” Our team is made up of people that have hands-on knowledge about the opioid epidemic. I’ve been in healthcare since 1988 and I’ve been living here in Bell County for 30 years. I started working as a nurse aid at one of the local hospitals and then went on to college to get my RN. Our detailing team all had a common interest when we got together.
What elements of the training do you apply most often during your visits when delivering your key messages?
Robin: What helped me the most was that last day of training when we were practicing academic detailing. Asking open-ended questions is the most important thing. You get so wrapped up in wanting to deliver your messages, but it’s not necessary that you get all of your messages in on that first visit. You may feel rushed to deliver all your messages if you’re afraid you’re not going to make it back in the door, but what I found is the more I met with doctors, and the more I said things like, “What have you seen in your practice?” or “Tell me about a patient…” or “Talk to me about the problems you’re having…”, the more I saw the conversation open up. That’s something I really picked up on the second day of training—learning to turn it back around and asking [needs assessment] questions. Let them get involved, and let me really listen to what they have to say; that way it'll help contribute to the conversation going forward.
The opioid epidemic can be a sensitive topic. When you approach clinicians to discuss their behaviors around the opioid epidemic, how are you generally received? What do clinicians in Bell County see as major challenges in your community?
Robin: Almost everyone I spoke to was very receptive about everything that we talked about, including all 5 of our campaign’s key messages. Because treatment in this area is slim to none, it all circled back to, “What if I find someone [a patient] that has opioid use disorder? How can you help me?” Doctors here are telling me that even people that have overdosed and come to the hospital are having a hard time [getting access to treatment]. There are places that are not in Bell County, but we would need some sort of transportation system that could get patients to those places.
What challenges do Bell County clinicians face, along with being busy, when trying to support their patients who are prescribed opioids?
Robin: Clinicians are often challenged in identifying symptoms of someone with opioid use disorder. Also, sometimes patients are sent to a pain [management] clinic, but those don’t always work. In our community, we can send them to the local Suboxone clinic which is accessible and easy to get to.
When it comes to Suboxone, you cannot look at it as an “all-or-nothing” approach. That’s a challenge here in Bell County, trying to get the community to know that abstinence is not always the answer, and sometimes people might have to take some form of medication for life to get the wiring back together that they've already lost because of their disorder.
I also understand some of the doctors are adamant about their current patients that have been taking these medications for 25 years for this chronic pain, which they don’t think they can do much about, and they’re concerned about this newer generation [of patients] coming in.
What have been some of the more rewarding exchanges you’ve had with clinicians you’ve met with?
Robin: I've had a lot of good visits, but this one sticks out in my mind: there was one clinician where I felt immediately like I was going to get the “brush off”. But I ended up staying for an hour and a half! I sat there with this doctor, who I’ve had a challenging professional relationship with historically, and he ended up talking to me at length about patients he was seeing, and those he had inherited. I was so excited that I’d spoken with him for so long, and that I’d covered all 5 of our campaign’s key messages. I walked away from that visit with questions to follow up on that I wanted to be able to answer for him at a future visit, and I felt like I made a new friend.
What do you want to tell new detailers who are just starting to form teams and try this kind of 1:1 outreach education model out with clinicians in their communities? What piece of advice would you have appreciated when you started your first detailing visits?
Robin: Try not to get discouraged! After we divided up all the physicians, we started making phone calls. That can be discouraging. I found out we actually had more luck stopping by. We called it the “drug representative look”: you dress up, put your badge on that says academic detailer, have the clipboard and all the paperwork, and you look professional. I really found out that I had more luck by just walking in and saying, “Do you have a minute?”
Don’t get discouraged if you're making calls all day long and they keep putting you off, because receptionists are making appointments all day long too and it’s hard to explain what you’re doing over the telephone. We definitely felt discouraged during the first couple of weeks of outreach. We were feeling like we hit a brick wall, and that’s when we coined the term "drive-by” detailing visits. We started driving around and just showing up at offices. So, get out and drive if you can’t get through over the phone. Go with a card and introduce yourself. They [clinicians] all want to talk about opioids. You'll be surprised when you get in the room with them and they start talking.
Ideas? Comments? Questions? Sound off on this blog in the comments section below!
As the Public Health Education Specialist for the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) program and the Opioid Task Force in Butte County, California, Stacy Piper, CLEC, acts as a regional liaison with the medical community as well as coalition's and various community partners. Learn more about Stacy in the bio at the end of this piece.
NaRCAD: Hi, Stacy! Thanks for joining us. Tell us a little bit about your work—we understand you, like many folks in public health, wear multiple hats.
As the Butte County Public Health Education Specialist for the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) program and the Opioid Task Force in Butte County, I act as a liaison with the medical community. I collaborate with hospitals, health care providers, public health programs, and community organizations to improve public health and continuity of care.
NaRCAD: Talk to us about detailing for the opioid crisis—you do this 1/4th of your time. How did you get started?
After providing educational detailing for the WIC Program funded at 30 hours a week, I was asked to be an Opioid Academic Detailer for Butte County. In preparation, I attended the Academic Detailer Training in San Francisco. The training provided by the CA Health Department, San Francisco Public Health Department's Substance Use Research Unit, and NaRCAD was one of the finest training experiences - even after the countless hours of extremely comprehensive training I received in the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Regarding impact on a local level, it is indescribable how every interaction with a healthcare provider is beneficial. Academic Detailing (AD) is an equal exchange of information. I consider it a huge responsibility, and a privilege, to be an educator for doctors and medical professionals.
I prefer the word “educator” instead of “detailer” because I have concerns that a “detailer” may be initially viewed as a salesperson. I love and respect that AD is not driven by attempting to influence medical professionals for personal gain. It’s all about helping providers improve health outcomes in patients with the entire focus of the conversation about the real people in their practice that need help.
NaRCAD: Tell us a little about your background in pharma, and how this translates to your detailing work now.
I was a Senior Executive Pharmaceutical Sales Representative for 15 years in Northern California, advocating for immunizations and promoting various prescription drugs. This provided first-hand experience of the astonishing evolution in the Medical, Pharmacy, and Insurance industries. Understanding the basic dynamics of medical offices has helped me navigate and gain access at a quicker pace for AD. Also, understanding the business acumen component of running a medical practice has proven to be valuable in my recent interactions.
NaRCAD: You mentioned that you’re committed to providing value for clinicians and patients alike. Talk to us about how you share key messages with the clinicians you visit.
In my experience, to truly influence the behavior of a highly-educated and experienced individual, you must come to the table with the goal of learning. With attentive listening, you ‘hear’ the medical professional, and process what you have learned. Your intuition will guide you to ask the appropriate, insightful questions needed to evaluate his/her priorities and challenges. This is a beautiful thing, because trust starts to blossom and the partnership has begun.
You can then confidently tailor key messages, valuable resources and solutions that are closely tied to those needs and challenges you uncovered. You should begin to see the individual’s genuine desire to truly change behavior and habits.
NaRCAD: Talking about opioids is a sensitive topic. What’s some of the typical pushback you get from clinicians you detail about opioid safety?
The response to academic detailing really depends on the situation and the type of clinician and/or establishment I am working with. Sharing local opioid statistics compared to our state statistics is an eye opener! I try to paint real life pictures by telling true stories.
For example, I’m honest about my own family members who were innocently caught up in this crisis, including the true story about the day my sister’s husband accidentally took his prescribed opioid medication twice. My sister lost her husband that day.
NaRCAD: Along with telling true stories, how do you handle pushback and stay positive, encouraging clinicians to pivot?
Time, or lack of time, is the biggest culprit in keeping physicians from attempting to personally assist in ending the addiction cycle for patients. I passionately believe clinicians need more time with people on opioids.
It takes several visits with an office to start moving in the right direction. Working with the medical assistants, nurses, and/ office managers is a key component. They can often have influence, give advice or insight, and even advocate when you are not there.
Also, I review our county’s Safe Prescribing Guidelines. If clinicians cannot institute all items in the guidelines, I ask providers to choose what they can commit to doing and to think about some specific patients they can work with. I also ask them to consider prescribing Naloxone for patients on high doses of opioids (above 50 morphine milligram equivalents).
NaRCAD: What would you share with new detailers who are about to go into the field and use AD to tackle the opioid crisis?
I have a few reminders and tips for detailers:
Stacy M. Piper, CLEC, Public Health Educational Specialist
Butte County California Public Health Department
As a Public Health Education Specialist, Stacy was chosen to work with two CA State grant funded programs educating Medical Professionals, Hospitals and Community Organizations for the WIC Program and the Opioid Drug Abuse Prevention Program. She maintains an active involvement with the Butte County Opioid Task Force, as well as the Butte County Drug Addiction Prevention Coalition, ACE’s Coalition (Trauma Informed), Breastfeeding Roundtable Coalition, Butte County Breastfeeding Coalition, Mother Strong Coalition, and Perinatal Coalition. Stacy has had extensive training with the California Department of Public Health's Opioid Stewardship & Chronic Pain Detailing Program, ID Training, UCSD CLE (Certified Lactation Educator), Coalition & Equity Training, Advocacy Training and holds 14 years of ongoing training & certification in the Pharmaceutical Industry. She is a member of the team coordinating and orchestrating the 2018 Northern California Opioid Summit.
Jerry Avorn, MD, Co-Director, NaRCAD
Of all the medication use issues facing the U.S., the most pressing is of course that of opioid mis-prescribing. When the anatomy of that mis-use is dissected, it becomes clear that the principles and methods of academic detailing are especially well suited to addressing this crisis, for several reasons.
First is the problem of information deficit: before the mid- to late-1990s, practical issues of the assessment and management of pain were often poorly covered (or not at all) in most medical school or residency training programs – so there’s a lot of good that can be accomplished by simple personalized knowledge transfer, to start with.
Second is dealing with the contamination of dis-information: the growing documentation of the fact that sales reps for OxyContin, for example, actually under-stated the drug’s risks and over-stated its potential indications when describing their product to prescribers – distortions for which the company had to pay $600 million in penalties.
Third is the fact that for this therapeutic category more than for most others, a prescriber’s attitudes and motivations play an especially important role.
These can involve “non-scientific” issues such as:
There is ample evidence that simple “gotcha” letters accusing a prescriber of opioid over-use have no effect. Similarly, draconian restrictions imposed by governments or health care systems limiting the amount of opioid that can be prescribed to a given patient clearly run the risk of under-treating genuine pain – a grotesque example of health care rules that seem guaranteed to increase patients’ suffering.
Evidence-based guidelines, such as those promulgated by the CDC, are fine as far as they go, but most doctors haven’t read them, and even fewer have integrated them into their practices.
But a well-trained, skilled academic detailer can interact with a prescriber to understand just what issues lie behind the apparent misuse of opioids by that physician, and present a set of interactive messages tailored to those particular needs.
This will involve constructing a personalized blend of new knowledge transfer, dis-information detoxification, practice facilitation (including help accessing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data less burdensomely), accessing local resources for help in patients with opioid use disorder, and assistance with patient education.
A similar approach could also be enormously helpful for encouraging naloxone prescribing and improving the care of patients with opioid use disorder, including medication-assisted treatment, where information deficits and attitudinal issues are even more prominent.
Together, this kind of individualized outreach education can accomplish far more than mailed guidelines, accusatory nastygrams, or legal restrictions – and in doing so, do more to improve patient care and reduce preventable misery than can be expected from more old-fashioned interventions.
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.
We've been staying busy here at NaRCAD this spring! With public health challenges like the opioid crisis, and the continued need for HIV prevention, the team here at NaRCAD has been on the road for 5 trainings in 6 weeks, and we're not stopping yet!
On February 14th - 16th, 2018, NaRCAD joined the amazing teams at San Francisco Department of Public Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for an exciting initiative: A Public Health Detailing Institute on HIV PrEP and RAPID.
Hosted in San Francisco's South Market neighborhood, 31 trainees attended, representing diverse public health departments from Texas, Connecticut, Alaska, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Mississippi, Michigan, Oregon, Nevada, Virginia, and beyond. These trainees joined the institute for a customized, 3-day event focusing on learning the techniques of academic detailing, along with showcasing best practices and success stories via special presentations and expert panels.
This past month, from March 7th through April 4th, 2018, NaRCAD hit the road four more times, as part of an exciting 4-site pilot project in partnership with our terrific colleagues at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and NACCHO (The National Association of County and City Health Officials).
Upon identifying counties and cities with the highest burden of fatal and non-fatal opioid overdose and high prescribing rates, the CDC selected Bell County, Kentucky; Boone County, West Virginia; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Dayton, Ohio as 4 pilot sites in which to convene with key community stakeholders and roll out community action plans, along with targeted academic detailing interventions.
Our work has involved launching on-location trainings at each of these pilot sites, focusing on providing front line clinicians with tools and support to improve outcomes for patients.
Messaging and support for these campaigns include lowering prescribing rates, referring patients to treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) including Medication Assisted Training (MAT), and using their state's PDMP (Prescription Drug Monitoring Program) to identify troubling patterns of use, which may, in turn, help to identify those patients who need more support and care.
Trainees at each site of these pilot sites work with us across two days to learn the structure of an academic detailing visit, practice role playing 1:1 visits with clinicians, and become experts at using educational materials (including a suite of materials constructed by the CDC based on their 2016 Opioid Prescribing Guidelines).
Our pilot site trainees walk away from our trainings ready to actively engage with clinicians to assess individual needs and provide customized support, and encourage behavior change for the opioid crisis in their respective communities.
NaRCAD's team will continue to focus on launching new academic detailing interventions across the U.S. well into 2018, with upcoming opioid-specific trainings being carried out in late May in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center, and in late June in Lansing, Michigan, with the Michigan Public Health Institute.
Our next all-topic, AD techniques training in Boston will kick off at the end of this month, where we'll train 24 health professionals from across the U.S.--we'll report back after that training and share lessons learned, highlights, slide decks, and clinical topics from represented programs, and we look forward to sharing those with our community.
Join our subscription list to receive alerts for upcoming training opportunities. Want to customize a clinical topic-specific training for 15 trainees or more, on site in your community? Reach out to us to schedule a training consultation call at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can't wait to work with you!
-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.