The NIH Collaboratory is pleased to announce the availability of a new self-paced, 10-module introductory course on how to design, conduct, and disseminate embedded PCTs (ePCTs). This course presents condensed material from the inaugural ePCT Training Workshop held in 2018 and provides users with important things to know and do when designing an ePCT, along with helpful links to additional learning resources within the Living Textbook.
Also available in the Living Textbook are links to videocast workshops hosted by the NIH on a range of ePCT topics including:
Embedded PCTs of therapeutic A versus B interventions
Unique opportunities for disseminating, implementing, and sustaining evidence-based practices into clinical care
Robert J. Mentz, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Duke University School of Medicine
Kevin J. Anstrom, PhD
Professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics
Director of Biostatistics, Duke Clinical Research Institute
Duke University School of Medicine
Eric Eisenstein, DBA
Associate Professor in Medicine
Duke University School of Medicine
Stephen J. Greene, MD
Fellow, Division of Cardiology and Duke Clinical Research Institute
Duke University School of Medicine
Eric J. Velazquez. MD, FACP, FACC, FASE, FAHA
Robert W. Berliner Professor of Medicine, Yale University
Chief, Cardiovascular Medicine, Yale New Haven Hospital
Physician-in-Chief, Heart and Vascular Center, Yale New Haven Health
TRANSFORMing Research for Patients With Heart Failure
Pragmatic clinical trial; Heart failure; PRECIS-2; Hospitalization; TRANSFORM-HF; Clinical equipoise; Electronic health records; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
The traditional approach to conducting clinical trials is unsustainable in many respects, including operational complexities, low enrollment rates, high costs, and failure to leverage existing resources. Incorporating pragmatic elements in the design of trials may improve efficiencies and conduct.
TRANSFORM-HF is a pragmatic trial evaluating torsemide versus furosemide treatment for long-term clinical outcomes among patients hospitalized for heart failure. Study randomization is 1:1, and the primary endpoint is all-cause mortality.
Advantages of trials with pragmatic designs include real-world effectiveness; broad patient/provider groups; reduced number and complexity of visits; streamlined data collection; potential for faster results; and results that will be more generalizable.
The clinical question involving starting a treatment (Should we start with furosemide or torsemide?) versus switching a treatment (Should we attempt to switch patients from furosemide to torsemide?) would seem to lead to different study designs.
While the peer review process for funding TRANSFORM-HF was challenging and required modifying the approach, it ultimately led to a better design.
Read more about PRECIS-2 domains along the explanatory-pragmatic continuum of a clinical trial in the Living Textbook.
Corita R. Grudzen, MD, MSHS, FACEP
Vice Chair for Research
Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Population Health
Ronald O. Perelman Department of Emergency Medicine
NYU School of Medicine
Primary Palliative Care for Emergency Medicine (PRIM-ER)
PRIM-ER; Emergency department; Palliative care; Demonstration project; Pragmatic trial; Stepped-wedge study design; Clinical decision support; Best practice alerts; Advance care planning
The PRIM-ER trial is a pragmatic, cluster-randomized, stepped wedge Demonstration Project that will implement primary palliative care in emergency medicine across a diverse group of 35 emergency departments (EDs).
PRIM-ER’s clinical decision support intervention is tailored to each ED site. The study aims to enable system, organizational, and provider change in the emergency department workflow.
The study team is identifying and preparing site champions by conducting communication skills training in serious illness for emergency physicians and staff using the EM Talk program.
It is important to consider sustainability of the intervention during the planning phase of the trial. Plan for staff turnover and how new staff will be educated and oriented to the intervention.
The volume and sophistication of best practice alerts (BPAs) received by physicians varies across U.S. emergency departments. Alert “fatigue” can be a concern.
The NIH Collaboratory recently convened a workshop to explore embedded pragmatic clinical trials comparing two or more therapeutic medical interventions. These “A vs B” trials are meant to test existing, viable treatment alternatives where there is uncertainty about which treatment is best in which populations. There are unique barriers that make these types of pragmatic trials especially challenging to implement. For the workshop, a panel of experts gathered to discuss challenges and solutions regarding partnering with healthcare systems to conduct the trials, unique legal and ethical issues, and design and operational considerations. The summary of the workshop is now available: Workshop Summary: Embedded Pragmatic Clinical Trials of Therapeutic A vs. B Interventions
Embedded pragmatic clinical trials of therapeutic A vs. B interventions workshop videocast.
In a new video, Dr. Greg Simon explains the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) with an analogy to a pie eating contest. The ICC is a descriptive statistic that measures the correlations among members of a group, and it is an important tool for cluster-randomized pragmatic trials because this calculation helps determine the sample size needed to detect an effect.
“When we randomize treatments by doctors, clinics, or even whole health systems, we need to think about how things cluster, and the intraclass correlation coefficient is the measure of that clustering. When we think about sample sizes in pragmatic clinical trials, it’s important to understand what an intraclass correlation coefficient actually is.”
For most pragmatic trials, the ICC will be between 0 and 1. If the outcomes in a group are completely correlated (ICC=1), then all participants within the group are likely to have the same outcome. When ICC=1, sampling one participant from the cluster is as informative as sampling the whole cluster, and many clusters will be needed to detect an effect. If there is no correlation among members of the groups (ICC=0), then the available sample size for the study is essentially the number of participants.
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.
As part of their ongoing effort to improve the speed and efficiency of conducting clinical trials, the NIH-FDA Joint Leadership Council has created a draft clinical trial protocol template. The template contains instructional and sample text intended to assist NIH-funded investigators in writing protocols for phase 2 or 3 clinical trials that require Investigational New Drug (IND) or Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) applications. Feedback is sought from investigators, investigator-sponsors, institutional review board members, and other stakeholders involved in protocol development and review.
Our goal is to provide an organized way for creative investigators to describe their plans so that others can understand them. – Dr. Pamela McInnes, NIH
Details on the rationale and development of the protocol template are on these blog posts:
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.
Drs. Beverly Green and Gloria Coronado and colleagues have published an article in Clinical Trialsdescribing the challenges of recruiting participants into large, multisite pragmatic clinical trials—particularly at the health system level. STOP CRC is one of the NIH Collaboratory’s pragmatic clinical trial Demonstration Projects, which are intended to provide a framework of implementation methods and best practices to enable participation of varied health care systems in clinical research.
STOP CRC is testing a culturally tailored, health care system–based program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in a community-based collaborative network of federally qualified health centers. The authors observed that recruiting sites to participate in pragmatic trials is time-intensive and involves both preparing materials and organizing face-to-face meetings with staff and clinic leaders. Yet little is known about the characteristics of nonparticipating sites and clinic-level factors that may influence willingness to participate in a pragmatic trial.
“Our findings underscore the importance of assessing and reporting recruitment success at the organizational and/or clinic level in order to know the external validity of the findings and may inform future efforts to select and recruit health systems to participate in pragmatic research.” (Coronado, et al. Clin Trials 2015)