Guest Blogger: Joseph Leishman
Academic Detailer/Masters in Public Health Candidate
Center for Clinical Management Research, Ann Arbor VA
The University of Michigan School of Public Health
NaRCAD Training Alumnus
NaRCAD: How did you get into AD? What were you doing before?
Joe: I’m a graduate student at The University of Michigan School of Public Health studying epidemiology. As a student I started working at the Ann Arbor VA Center for Clinical Management Research on a lung cancer-screening project. Our project involves 8 different VA sites across the country. As we shifted into an implementation phase, academic detailing was selected as an implementation method. I transitioned to an academic detailer role because of my background in epidemiology, my understanding of lung cancer screening (LCS), and my ability to communicate these principles.
I attended the NaRCAD academic detailing techniques training and things took off from there!
NaRCAD: Why is AD for lung cancer screening so important?
Joe: Lung cancer screening can be more complex and complicated compared to other preventative services, and most primary care physicians have very limited time to discuss lung cancer screening with patients. There are a number of potential downsides to screening – false positives, overdiagnosis, invasive procedures, and complications from invasive procedures. The benefits of the screening outweigh the challenges, and we have developed a tool for doctors to quickly evaluate a patient’s lung cancer risk, facilitate shared decision making, and make personalized screening recommendations.
NaRCAD: Tell us about the lung cancer screening detailing aid and related tools that you made with NaRCAD’s support. How was the process of developing the detailing aid?
Joe: Our detailing aid contains background information on lung cancer screening and some of the key evidence behind our tool. It also outlines some of the reasons and benefits behind using this risk-based approach. We tried to keep the detailing aid simple enough that doctors could quickly understand the concepts with little or no additional explanation. This was our group’s first attempt at making something like this. We worked with NaRCAD during the creation of the detailing aid to improve the clinical content, layout, and language. There was a lot of trial and error to create the detailing aid. We ended up going through 10 versions before it was finalized.
NaRCAD: How did you decide what information was most important to put on your detailing aid?
Joe: Initially, we started out with too much information. It was too complicated and wordy to effectively communicate our message. We tested it out with our team to see if our message was clear. It was obvious when sections of detailing aid didn’t work well.
We really had to focus on narrowing down the main evidence and messages we wished to convey. We used the primary lung cancer screening evidence from the US Preventative Task Force and the National Lung Screening Trial. Our tool goes a step beyond screening eligibility to look at individual risk, life expectancy, and patient preferences, which help providers get past some of the difficulties and complexities of lung cancer screening.
NaRCAD: How does your website complement the detailing aid when you are 1:1 detailing?
Joe: A link to the tool is embedded in the Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS), the EMR system that the VA uses. However, it can be also accessed outside the VA with a URL. What I typically do is I have PCPs pull up the website in their workspace after going through the detailing aid. I have providers role play with a sample patient, and I demonstrate how the tool could be used for that specific patient. Using the actual web tool in a detailing meeting really helps to reinforce our message. We feel like it increases the likelihood that it’ll be adopted in an actual clinical practice.
NaRCAD: How have clinicians been responding to your campaign?
Joe: So far there has been a decent response from the doctors we have worked with. Some of the doctors in the VA have met with detailers before which makes the initial contact easy. However, the most majority of the doctors I have met were receptive to my visits.
We’ve been tracking the use of our tool before and after academic detailing at a site level. We don’t have exact numbers, but there has been an increase between before and after AD. We’d be happy to share more complete data in a future blog post.
NaRCAD: That'd be terrific, we'd love to share that when it's ready! What other reflections do you have from this process that you'd like to share with our community?
Joe: Academic detailing is a new approach for our group. It has been a real learning experience for discovering what does and doesn’t work and how to best address provider needs. For me, going through this process has been a lot of fun. I love talking with doctors about their struggles and being able to offer a tool that can help them better handle lung cancer screening with their patients.
The National Academic Detailing Service’s
Opioid Overdose Education & Naloxone Distribution (OEND) Program
Guest Blog Authors: Melissa Christopher, PharmD, National Director
Mark Bounthavong, PharmD, MPH, National Clinical Program Manager
In 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) invested in the National Academic Detailing Service to improve the health of our Veterans to address the call to action for the opioid crisis. Through the Opioid Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) Program, our goals were to reduce harm and risk of life-threatening opioid-related overdose and deaths among Veterans.
Key components of the OEND program include raising awareness about the epidemic, 1:1 academic detailing visits with clinicians to provide education and training regarding opioid overdose prevention, opioid overdose rescue response, and issuing naloxone products. We developed direct-to-consumer marketing and other e-resources, including a video, Introduction to Naloxone for People Taking Prescribed Opioids.
We also created implementation tools, including population management dashboards to aid staff in evaluating risk factors of their patient population and distributing naloxone accordingly. Academic Detailers demonstrated to VA providers these resources to help raise awareness of opioid overdose risk for their patient panel.
Decision-makers believed that funding this program would yield a good return on investment. As part of the National Academic Detailing Service, it’s our responsibility to collect data and supply decision-makers with evidence on the value and success of our program. In other words, we’re accountable for answering the question, “Is academic detailing worth it?”
To answer this question, we performed several program evaluations of the National Academic Detailing Service from 2015 to 2017, one of which we just published in the Journal of American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA) (Trends in naloxone prescriptions prescribed after implementation of a National Academic Detailing Service in the Veterans Health Administration: A preliminary analysis.)
The evaluation found that our program improved naloxone distribution rates at a seven times greater increase for Veterans at risk for opioid overdose. These results provided key empirical evidence that VA’s strategy of academic detailing was working. Just as important, these findings also gave decision-makers what they needed—proof that their investment in an area of high risk to Veterans’ health paid off by improving care.
But we learned that another group of stakeholders was just as important as the decision-makers who funded the program—the clinicians that academic detailers visited to provide outreach education as a service. Academic detailers work with clinicians to help them change practice patterns, focusing on improving health outcomes in alignment with balanced, current evidence.
As clinicians commit to sustainable behavior change, these providers need to hear the feedback about how the time they’ve invested with their patients ultimately improves outcomes and, in this case, saves lives.
Sharing program results with the clinicians in this intervention also encouraged these providers to share their own results, many of which were stories of patients returning to the clinic to relate their experiences of using naloxone to reverse an overdose. These stories, along with reversal reports from the field that tracked the outcomes of naloxone kit distribution and subsequent use, also created a tangible “return on investment” for everyone involved.
We encourage other academic detailing programs to prioritize program evaluation as we have at the VHA—no matter the size of your program, if you’re thinking, “we can’t afford to do program evaluations,“ we stress that you can’t afford not to do them.
Measuring program work builds a case not just for the success of one academic detailing intervention, but for the success of future programs—a case for sustainability. Evaluation measures the quality of a program, analyzing results to look at a program’s impact, and allowing for process improvement adjustments to be made to streamline efforts and strengthen that impact. Evaluation cannot be optional, especially when lives are at stake.
We also recommend that the results from program evaluations are shared with other stakeholders, such as clinicians, in order to encourage and sustain their behavior changes. Leveraging results from well-designed evaluation is essential for academic detailing interventions to illustrate success, share value, and provide stakeholders and community members with a clear “Yes!” in answer to their overarching question: “Was the investment worth it?”
Melissa Christopher, PharmD
National Director, Academic Detailing, US Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office, Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) Academic Detailing Service
Dr. Christopher is the National Director of VA Academic Detailing Services, overseeing the implementation efforts for academic detailing expansion across all Veteran Integrated Service Networks since 2014. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. She completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency and Post Graduate Year 2 in Pharmacoeconomics and Formulary Management at VA San Diego Healthcare System. Dr. Christopher conducted research in health outcomes and pharmacoeconomic analysis for several chronic disease management areas. In recent years, Dr. Christopher has embraced the mission to expand efforts for educational outreach by clinical pharmacists for improvement of evidence based care in Pain Management, Depression, Schizophrenia, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as well as other substance use disorders. Most of her program efforts focus on development of educational materials, outcome monitors, provider specific electronic audit and feedback tools to trend practice patterns with implementation efforts for the newly developed as well as fully implemented AD programs.
Mark Bounthavong, PharmD, MPH
National Clinical Program Manager, Academic Detailing Service, Veterans Affairs
Dr. Bounthavong graduated from the College of Pharmacy at Western University of Health Sciences. He completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at the Veterans Affairs Loma Linda Healthcare System followed by a fellowship in Outcomes Research and Pharmacoeconomics at Western University of Health Sciences. He started his career at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System as a pharmacoeconomics clinical specialist. During his tenure at the VA, Mark worked on identifying cost-effective strategies and formulary management; directed the PGY-1 Managed Care Pharmacy Residency; and completed a Master of Public Health from Emory University. Mark left the VA in order to pursue a PhD in the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program at the University of Washington. He recently accepted a position at the VA as one of the National Clinical Pharmacy Data Program Managers in the Academic Detailing Service.
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.