In a new article, Dr. Vincent Mor, an NIH Collaboratory investigator, and Dr. Paul Wallace describe the history, current status, and opportunities for funding training in health services research (HSR). While the number of organizations seeking to solve problems with health services research has been expanding, direct government support for HSR is declining. The authors project 5 key challenges for the field and its professional development:
Formulating and prioritizing research topics
Whether to use team- or individual-based approaches
How new data sources, analytic methods, and the need for faster results affect supply and demand for HSR
Shifts from public to institutional funding and the associated effects on generalizability
Balancing proprietary concerns regarding data, predictive models, and study results with the need to improve public health and rapidly disseminate information
According to the authors, sustainable solution will involve active collaboration between those who use HSR as a part of decision-making (and will likely pay for it) and those who produce it.
“We believe that the key change needed to productively address the above challenges will be a closer collaboration between HSR users, especially health systems, and academic HSR training programs to work towards producing timely, internally relevant, and externally generalizable knowledge (Mor and Wallace 2018).”
Congratulations to Dr. Lynn DeBar and the investigators of the Collaborative Care for Chronic Pain in Primary Care pragmatic trial for recently publishing their study design paper. One of the NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Projects, the trial is designed to test whether a primary care–based behavioral intervention the Pain Program for Active Coping and Training (PPACT)—will provide a “more effective, safer, and more satisfactory alternative to opioid-based chronic pain treatment” than usual care for patients on chronic opioid treatment (Debar et al 2018). Learn more about this innovative trial in the article in Contemporary Clinical Trials. You can also download a trial snapshot.
Full Citation: DeBar L, Benes L, Bonifay A, et al. Interdisciplinary team-based care for patients with chronic pain on long-term opioid treatment in primary care (PPACT) – Protocol for a pragmatic cluster randomized trial. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2018;67:91-99. doi:10.1016/j.cct.2018.02.015
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Extramural Research has released new clinical trial requirements for grant applications and contract proposals due on or after January 25, 2018. In anticipation of these new requirements, the NIH modified the Application Guide and the Review Criteria to address methodological problems common to many clinical trials. As group- or cluster-randomization designs are increasingly common in both basic and applied research, the new Application Guide includes links to the new Research Methods Resources website, which provides resources for investigators considering these group- or cluster-randomized designs, including lists of NIH webinars, key references, and statements to help investigators prepare sound applications and avoid methodological pitfalls.
In a new video in the Living Textbook, Dr. Greg Simon describes the differences between individual, cluster, and stepped-wedge randomization using props, including marbles, Play-Doh, and glassware.
“In the end, it’s all about randomly assigning who gets which treatment, or who gets which treatment when, so that we’re able to make some un-biased judgement about which treatment is really better.” —Greg Simon, MD
“Try to really learn from others who have done this—even if you are the first one doing your specific trial with your specific questions. It was helpful for us to learn from the other Collaboratory projects; they had already faced some problems, and we were able to anticipate and develop solutions proactively.” – Dr. Miguel Vazquez
In this interview, Dr. Doug Zatzick gives an update on the first years of the Trauma Survivors Outcomes and Support (TSOS) trial. Dr. Zatzick discussed the status of his trial, challenges and surprises, and advice he has for new investigators.
Dr. Zatzick’s advice: “Embed implementation teams within embedded trials. The bottom line is, go to the sites, do training at the sites and with the team, and take field notes in real time. ”
We recently asked Dr. Liz DeLong, Chair of the Biostatistics and Study Design Core, to reflect on the first 5 years of the Core’s work and the challenges ahead. She says the biggest impact of the Core has been working with the individual Demonstration Projects to provide a sounding board to discuss statistical challenges. Further, Core members have contributed to new knowledge through manuscripts that address key methodological issues related to pragmatic clinical trials. She’s hoping the Core will continue to push the boundaries of statistical methods in the coming years.
“The statisticians on the individual trials have not only developed excellent statistical methods for their own studies, but also contributed substantively to the Core.” Dr. Liz DeLong
The Active Bathing to Eliminate (ABATE) Infection trial (ClinicalTrials.gov #NCT02063867) has completed its intervention phase—the first NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory UH3 Demonstration Project to reach this major milestone. The large-scale, cluster-randomized pragmatic clinical trial (PCT) was designed to assess an approach for reducing multidrug-resistant organisms and hospital-associated infections (HAIs) in nearly 200 non-critical care hospital units affiliated with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) across the United States.
The ABATE study is led by principal investigator Dr. Susan Huang of the University of California, Irvine, who stated “We are elated to reach the successful completion of the trial thanks to an incredible investigative team at HCA, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Rush University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and UC Irvine. We look forward to what the trial data will tell us and hope that we can continue to find effective ways to protect patients from infection.”
In the ABATE study, patients hospitalized in non-critical care units were bathed either according to the hospital unit’s usual care procedures (the control group) or bathed with the topical antibacterial agent chlorhexidine (plus nasal administration of the antibiotic mupirocin for those patients who were colonized or infected with, or had a history of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA] [the intervention group]). The study investigators will compare the number of unit-attributable, multidrug-resistant organisms in clinical cultures between the study arms; these organisms include vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), MRSA, and gram-negative bacteria. In addition, the investigators will compare the number of unit-attributable infections in the bloodstream and urinary tract (all pathogens) and Clostridium difficile infections. Cultures were collected at baseline and post intervention and will be assessed to determine whether resistance emerged to decolonization products.
“We are elated to reach the successful completion of the trial thanks to an incredible investigative team at HCA, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Rush University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and UC Irvine.We look forward to what the trial data will tell us and hope that we can continue to find effective ways to protect patients from infection.”
Healthcare-associated infections caused by common bacteria, including MRSA and VRE, are a leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States and are associated with upward of $6.5 billion in annual healthcare costs. Although these bacteria normally live on the skin or in the nose, under certain circumstances they can cause serious or even life-threatening infections. Hospitalized patients who are ill or who have weakened immune systems are especially at risk for such infections. Because these pathogens are resistant to many antibiotics, they can be difficult to treat.
In intensive care units (ICUs), reducing the amount of such bacteria (a process referred to as decolonization) by treating patients’ skin with chlorhexidine and their noses with mupirocin ointment has been shown to reduce MRSA infections and all-cause bacteremias. However, relatively little is known about the effects of decolonization in hospital settings outside of critical care units, although this is where the majority of such infections occur. The ABATE trial, in contrast, is testing its bathing and decolonization strategy in adult medical, surgical, oncology, and step-down units (pediatric, psychology, peri-partum, and bone marrow transplantation units were excluded).
Over the course of the study, more than a million showers and baths were taken, and all sites have completed the intervention. The next steps for the ABATE investigators are to finish strain collection over the coming weeks, and then clean, validate, and analyze the data over the coming months.
Investigators from the STOP CRC pragmatic trial, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, have recently published an article in the journal eGEMs describing solutions to issues that arose in the trial’s implementation phase. STOP CRC tests a program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in a collaborative network of Federally Qualified Health Centers by mailing fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) kits to screen-eligible patients at clinics in the intervention arm. Clinics in the control arm provided opportunistic colorectal-cancer screening to patients at clinic visits in Year 1 and implemented the intervention in Year 2. In this cluster-randomized trial, clinics are the unit of analysis, rather than individual patients, with the primary outcome being the proportion of screen-eligible patients at each clinic who complete a FIT.
The team dealt with various challenges that threatened the validity of their primary analysis, one of which related to potential contamination of the primary outcome due to the timing of the intervention rollout: for control participants, the Year 2 intervention actively overlapped with the Year 1 control measurements. The other challenge was due to a lack of synchronization between the measurement and accrual windows. To deal with these issues, the team had to slightly modify the study design in addition to developing a few sensitivity analyses to better estimate the true impact of the intervention.
“While the nature of the challenges we encountered are not unique to pragmatic trials, we believe they are likely to be more common in such trials due to both the types of designs commonly used in such studies and the challenges of implementing system-based interventions within freestanding health clinics.” (Vollmer et al. eGEMs 2015)
The Publish EDM Forum Community publishes eGEMs (generating evidence & methods to improve patient outcomes) and provides free and open access to this methods case study. Readers can access the article here.