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.
Bevin K. Shagoury, NaRCAD Communications
The excitement and breadth of content in this November’s 3rd International Conference on Academic Detailing exceed what we can capture in this blog post. The combination of exciting speakers, engaging panelists, expert breakout session leaders, and national and international attendees eager to problem-solve created a forward-thinking event that inspired all of us working on AD and related outreach educational activities. As you reflect on our event's highlights, we encourage you to access on-demand video, speaker biographies, session descriptions, and more at our Conference Hub resource page.
Kicking Day 1 off and setting the tone for the entire event, NaRCAD Director Dr. Mike Fischer warmly welcomed our packed room at Harvard Medical School’s Martin Center by encouraging collaboration, connection, and sharing. Our Day 1 Keynote Speaker Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the CMO of the Veteran’s Health Administration, described the VHA’s work to improve pain management in the veteran population while addressing the challenges of medication abuse and overdose. Dr. Clancy shared strategy and data behind the national effort and the critical role of academic detailing in it, connecting attendees to a big-picture view that can be adopted to look at other health epidemics and interventions.
Our first expert panel presented Practice Facilitation in Primary Care. Andy Ellner moderated the session, leading panelists Ann Lefebvre of North Carolina's AHEC Program, Lyndee Knox of LA Net, and Allyson Gottsman of HealthTeamWorks to discuss strategies, contextualize their work in relation to academic detailing and quality improvement, and share their personal approaches to challenges in primary care behavior change. Allyson Gottsman’s much-appreciated analogy that practice facilitation is not unlike “leading a fisherman to a well-stocked pond” resonated with panelists and participants alike. Many attendees who were actively engaged in practice facilitation in their daily work shared that the panel helped them to think about their work in a new way.
The afternoon’s breakout sessions offered attendees multiple tracks with AD-related topics to explore: deconstructing and analyzing a 1:1 AD visit, exploring the skills needed to manage an effective AD program, and strategizing on ways to identify and harness stakeholder support when initiating a new program or strengthening an existing one.
The afternoon closed with two presentations; the first, by Terryn Naumann of the Canadian Academic Detailing Collaboration (CADC), offered participants a view of the power of synergy and teamwork, the historical context of the CADC’s creation and growth, and the future of the collaboration.
The final presentation of the day was a lively one by NaRCAD’s co-founder and co-director, Dr. Jerry Avorn, who identified major obstacles to effective evidence-based communication in the current landscape of healthcare, and provided a future-centered lens through which attendees could envision how academic detailers can address these challenges. A full day of new ideas and connections culminated in a networking reception that gave attendees a chance to relax and connect socially.
Day 2’s morning opened with another engaging Keynote Speaker; Dr. Don Goldmann, CSO & CMO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, combined quality improvement theory with personal anecdotes, weaving in real-life examples of successful interventions to provide context and dimension to the theory that underlies all of our work.
More examples of successful practice change were illustrated by the morning’s Themed Plenary on the Intersection of Public Health and AD. Dr. Phillip Coffin of the San Francisco Department of Public Health shared the success of an intervention focusing on co-prescribing of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose deaths in San Francisco. Another successful AD intervention was presented by Michael Kharfen of the Washington D.C. Department of Health, who highlighted the successful implementation of AD programs to increase HIV and Hepatitis C screening and treatment.
The afternoon featured our second Expert Panel, this time on the role of AD within integrated healthcare systems. Moderated by Dr. Mike Fischer of NaRCAD, panelists Joy Leotsakos of Atrius Health (MA), Sameer Awsare of Kaiser Permanente Medical Group (CA), and Valerie Royal of Greenville Health System (SC) shared their experiences using AD in systems at different stages of development. Attendees had the opportunity to discuss this topic further in the afternoon’s breakout sessions, which also included a session on practice facilitation, as well as third session to continue to explore AD and public health partnerships.
The conference’s closing discussion was led by Mike Fischer, who thanked not only the speakers, panelists, and session leaders, but the participants, whose willingness to share their experiences within an interactive setting was key in creating solutions to bring back to use in their daily work. The creative collaborations, exchange of resources, excitement in combating challenges in the field, and belief in the importance of AD for the future of healthcare transformation were felt by all at the closing of a very full and thought-provoking event.
Our Twitter feed tracks the event’s highlights through #NaRCAD2015, and you can catch our event photo album on our Facebook page. We invite you to explore these topics, learn about our speakers and attendees, and connect with us at the NaRCAD Conference Hub, where you can access on-demand video of all main sessions from the conference. Thank you again to all who attended, and to AHRQ for funding our series. Please stay in touch with us and each other, and continue the conversation and idea sharing below.
We hope to see you in 2016!
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