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.