Academic detailing, described as “university or non-commercial-based educational outreach”, is crucial for enhancing patient care and reducing health care costs in the realm of medication therapy. With a goal of improving the prescribing of targeted drugs, academic detailing typically involves face-to-face education of prescribers by trained health care professionals (typically pharmacists, physicians, or nurses) who work to ensure that prescribing is consistent with medical evidence from randomized controlled trials. A key component of non-commercial or university-based detailing programs is that they (academic detailers/clinical educators, management, staff, program developers, and more) do not have any financial links to the pharmaceutical industry. Academic detailing has been studied for over 25 years and has proven effective at improving the prescription of targeted medications about 5% from baseline. Though it is primarily used to affect prescribing, it is also used to educate providers regarding other non-drug interventions, such as health care screening guidelines.
As organizations develop and refine their academic detailing programs to improve patient care, our experiences at Atrius Health have showed us that academic detailing must be a continuous process of evaluation and collaboration for adapting to changes in today’s healthcare environment. Our Academic Detailing Service (ADS) for the Atrius Health Clinical Pharmacy program has evolved over the past several years through the evaluation of its impact, solicitation of internal feedback, and by working with others in the field, including the National Resource Center for Academic Detailing (NaRCAD).
When we began the clinical pharmacy ADS program in 2011, our clinical pharmacists detailed clinicians in individual scheduled appointments or in larger groups during department meetings. Our objective was to meet with all internal medicine and family medicine prescribers once per fiscal quarter to discuss cost-effective prescribing and clinical quality. Documentation of our ADS meetings consisted of checking off a list of the clinicians we detailed each quarter.
At that time, there was no formal training for our clinical pharmacists on how to conduct a detailing meeting. Our method of creating content for visits soon resulted in a large menu of topics so varied that each quarter’s detailing became unwieldy and too broadly focused. While our documentation gave us a general sense of the number of clinicians detailed, it did not tell us anything about the quality of our interactions.