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.
The exponential increase in computing power and data storage capacity, coupled with the sharp decrease in data processing costs, have made possible an era of ‘big data’ that is transforming many aspects of life and commerce. In health care, this evolution is enabling access to information that was impossible to imagine in the era when I first began this work when most prescriptions and test orders were still written on little scraps of paper. As applied to academic detailing, this growing capacity opens up a veritable armory of double-edged swords.
Knowing what doctors are ordering: This information has always been an important advantage of the pharmaceutical industry, which routinely buys the detailed prescribing records of specific physicians from intermediaries such as IMS, who in turn purchase these records from nearly every pharmacy in the nation. In the hands of an agile pharmaceutical representative, knowing a doctor’s drug preferences can be a powerful tool in shaping a promotional message tailored to that person.
Many of us in have had mixed views about the use of such data. On the one hand, it can make possible a more precisely focused discussion about optimal ordering of tests and treatments that is based on a given practitioner’s actual behavior. On the other hand, the approach comes with several risks. One is the concern that clinicians may feel “spied upon” – a problem that doesn’t seem to come up much in industry visits. This in turn can divert the conversation to discussion of “Why are you visiting me?” rather than a conversation about optimal patient care.
Data feedback to clinicians also degenerates frequently into he said-she said debates that often come down to “My patients are different!” We welcome feedback from academic detailing programs on how this use of data has worked (or hasn’t) in their own settings.
What patients are (or aren’t) doing: The computerization of dispensing records opened an era of hitherto-difficult research on patient adherence to their medication regimens, with generally depressing findings of low adherence. The full import of this rampant epidemic of non-compliance is still not well understood by most prescribers. The rapid growth in mobile and wearable technologies that capture physical activity and other lifestyle choices provides another potential source of data on patient behavior, but the best applications of this information are even less well understood.
In principle, academic detailing programs embedded in health care organizations can provide feedback to clinicians on how much or how little their patients are taking medications as directed or complying with other medical advice, and – more important – what to do about it. Is this a useful component of the educational encounter? Again, we would welcome hearing how this use of big data to provide feedback on adherence or patient behavior does or doesn’t fit into the work of ongoing academic detailing programs.
In the coming years, we will see even greater access to terabytes of data on who is ordering what, and what patients are doing with their prescriptions and other treatments. Used well, this technological revolution can provide added power to programs designed to improve that clinical decision making.
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