- 2017;20;S147-S151Educational Outreach to Opioid Prescribers: The Case for Academic Detailing
Margot Trotter Davis, PhD, Brian Bateman, MD, and Jerry Avorn, MD.
Nonmedical use of opioid medications constitutes a serious health threat as the rates of addiction, overdoses, and deaths have risen in recent years. Increasingly, inappropriate and excessively liberal prescribing of opioids by physicians is understood to be a central part of the crisis. Public health officials, hospital systems, and legislators are developing programs and regulations to address the problem in sustained and systematic ways that both insures effective treatment of pain and appropriate limits on the availability of opioids. Three approaches have obtained prominence as means of avoiding excessive and inappropriate prescribing, including: providing financial incentives to physicians to change their clinical decision through pay-for-performance contracts, monitoring patient medications through Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, and educational outreach to physicians.
A promising approach to educational outreach to physicians is an intervention known as “academic detailing.” It was developed in the 1980s to provide one-on-one educational outreach to physicians using similar methods as the pharmaceutical industry that sends “detailers” to market their products to physician practices. Core to academic detailing, however, is the idea that medical decisions should be based on evidence-based information, including managing conditions with updated assessment measures, behavioral, and nonpharmacological interventions. With the pharmaceutical industry spending billions of dollars to advertise their products, individual practitioners can have difficulty gathering unbiased information, especially as the number of approved medications grows each year. Academic detailing has successfully affected the management of health conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and recently, has targeted physicians who prescribe opioids. This article discusses the approach as a potentially effective preventative intervention to address the epidemic of opioid overuse.
Key words: Opioid abuse, opioid misuse, academic detailing, health policy, interactive education,prevention