July 15, 2019: PRIM-ER Gains Approval to Proceed to Implementation Phase: An Interview With Dr. Corita Grudzen

Primary Palliative Care for Emergency Medicine (PRIM-ER)Dr Corita Grudzen, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, received approval this month to enter its implementation phase. PRIM-ER is a pragmatic, cluster randomized trial of a multidisciplinary primary palliative care education and decision support intervention in a diverse sample of emergency departments that differ in their specialty geriatric and palliative care capacity, geographic region, payer mix, and patient demographic characteristics.

We spoke with the principal investigator of PRIM-ER, Dr. Corita Grudzen, at the NIH Collaboratory Steering Committee meeting in May about the completion of the study’s planning phase.

What is the status of your study?

PRIM-ER is currently transitioning from a 1-year UG3 planning phase to the UH3 implementation phase, where the intervention will be tested at full scale across 33 sites in a stepped-wedge trial. Our program manager is conducting training sessions in preparation for implementing the intervention at study sites.

Were there surprises during the planning phase of the study?

There weren’t surprises so much as confirmation of what we already knew, which was that enthusiasm can go a long way. Having a detail-oriented, responsive site principal investigator is also key. When you have a well-organized team on the ground, the distance doesn’t matter as much, and all the things you think are going to get in the way don’t get in the way. Things go smoothly when you have someone who is incredibly enthusiastic, loves the content, understands the content, and is infectious about sharing the training and information with others. I think that can overcome a lot of potential barriers.

What is an example of a challenge that you were able to overcome with the help of the NIH Collaboratory Core Working Groups?

Working with the Cores was reassuring, in that they showed us we weren’t alone. We were all struggling with the same issues, and it was okay not to be perfect in the way we were attacking all the problems. We were all planning pragmatic trials, and it was okay if we showed our warts and all.

What other challenges have you faced?

Having a good team at the primary organization is really important. It’s important to have a good administrative team—a program manager, project director—who can hold down the fort, especially with pragmatic trials, when you’re traveling to a lot of sites.

What advice do you have for investigators conducting their first embedded pragmatic clinical trial?

Give yourself a break. There are a ton of imperfections in conducting embedded pragmatic trials. It’s all about the people. Pick great site principal investigators. That’s more important than anything else about the institutions. You want to have enough eligible patients that you’re going to have an impact or whatever else is involved in picking your sites. Enthusiasm and organizational savvy go a long way. Be patient and flexible and open to new iterations of what you’re doing. It feels scary at first, but I think it will serve you to be open to change.

PRIM-ER is supported within the NIH Collaboratory by cooperative agreements from NCCIH and the National Institute on Aging and receives logistical and technical support from the NIH Collaboratory Coordinating Center. Read more about PRIM-ER and the NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Projects.

June 20, 2019: EMBED Investigators Discuss Progress and Transition to Implementation Phase

At the May 2019 meeting of the NIH Collaboratory Steering Committee, we talked with Drs. Ted Melnick and Gail D’Onofrio of EMBED, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, to hear about progress and challenges during the UG3 planning phase. The goal of EMBED is to test whether implementation of a user-centered clinical decision support system increases adoption of initiation of buprenorphine/naloxone into the routine emergency care of patients with opioid use disorder. In the UG3 phase, the study team put in place the infrastructure of a pragmatic, multicenter, parallel, group-randomized health IT intervention. EMBED recently transitioned to the UH3 implementation phase and plans to launch the intervention at 20 sites across 5 healthcare systems in August 2019.

“With EMBED, we’re trying to take evidence-based research and implement it to improve practice. EMBED is both a research and patient care project.”

Were there any surprises during the study’s planning phase?

The first surprise came at last year’s Steering Committee meeting, when we met with the Biostatistics and Study Design Core. They encouraged us to change our original study design from stepped-wedge to group-randomized, which we did. We think this advice led to a stronger study. The main reason for this is the group-randomized design’s ability to better account for temporal changes. Since our intervention is being conducted in the middle of an opioid crisis, there are potentially other concurrent interventions that could make it difficult to determine the effect of our intervention. The group-randomized design should give us better insight into whether our intervention is driving behavior change in treating patients with opioid use disorder.

What is an example of a challenge that you were able to overcome with the help of a Core Working Group?

In addition to design advice from the Biostatistics Core, we received expert guidance from the Ethics and Regulatory Core, who helped us prepare for the central IRB process. The Core’s input was essential to how we developed our protocol’s waiver of informed consent, data handling, and protection of patient privacy. We were able to demonstrate to the IRB that our approach was logical and informed. We think this helped the IRB “get it” and allowed us to more efficiently address patient privacy issues in a vulnerable population across multiple healthcare systems.

What other key challenges have you faced?

One challenge was on the IT side with electronic health record (EHR) integration, which required more customization than we initially planned. How we work with EHR vendors is evolving, and we’ve found good partners so that we can integrate across different systems. This has strengthened our intervention so that it is perceived as more universal than one designed only for a specific EHR system.

Another challenge is the general under-resourcing of healthcare delivery systems for pragmatic research. We found that, regardless of budget, getting approval from system leadership for an IT change is often not enough—what is needed is figuring out who is going to make the change, how much time is involved, and whether the team has the bandwidth to complete the task. You cannot underestimate the degree of difficulty a change poses to a health system that is still struggling to get the clinical side of things right.

The way a study is framed to leadership is important—understand what’s motivating them to participate and move a project forward. With EMBED, we’re trying to take evidence-based research and implement it to improve practice. EMBED is both a research and patient care project. We need to impress upon leadership that we can improve patient outcomes and we’ll pay for it, but we need their help and support in navigating the process through the institution.

What words of advice do you have for investigators conducting their first embedded PCT?

  • Study teams should think about potential barriers from the beginning and find solutions quickly.
  • Make sure that health system leadership discusses your project with those on the ground.
  • Enlist the experts your study needs for each site. In our case, we needed both an IT expert for the operational side and a clinical expert, or we couldn’t have moved the project forward.
  • Recognize that there are trade-offs in pragmatic design and remember that you’re working with health systems in which your intervention will need to be replicated.
  • Make your intervention sustainable and easily usable by the clinician, without the need for research or other additional staff.

EMBED is supported within the NIH Collaboratory by a cooperative agreement from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and receives logistical and technical support from the NIH Collaboratory Coordinating Center. Read more about EMBED in the Living Textbook, and learn more about the NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Projects.

June 13, 2019: Experience With Pragmatic Clinical Trials Gains Momentum

At the NIH Collaboratory Steering Committee Meeting in May 2019, participants shared their perspectives on the evolving landscape of embedded pragmatic clinical trials (ePCTs). Three initiatives were presented: the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory, and the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative. Although many challenges remain, the conduct of ePCTs is gaining momentum, and the synergy between the initiatives, along with the fellowship they engender, will continue to help pave the way for more embedded pragmatic research in the future.

Dr. Ann Trontell, Associate Director of Clinical Effectiveness and Decision Science at PCORI, shared PCORI’s experience with pragmatic clinical studies. Since 2014, PCORI has awarded $494 million dollars for 43 pragmatic studies that range in size from 425 to 100,000 participants (median, approximately 1700). The studies include 2 observational, 27 individually randomized, and 14 cluster randomized trials in a wide range of therapeutic areas.

Dr. Trontell urged those developing proposals for pragmatic trials to make them fit for purpose, as opposed to emphasizing pragmatism, a theme echoed in the Developing a Compelling Grant Application chapter of the Living Textbook.

 

 

 

 

Dr. Robert Kerns, a director of the NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory, shared progress with pragmatic trials designed to evaluate whether evidence-based nonpharmacological approaches are effective for pain management among US military personnel and veterans.

Modeled after the NIH Collaboratory, the Pain Management Collaboratory is supporting 11 projects through a 2-year planning phase and a 2- to 4-year implementation phase. Subject matter experts at the Pain Management Collaboratory Coordinating Center (PMC3) support the projects by sharing tools, best practices, and resources.

 

Dr. Wendy Weber, Program Officer for the NIH Collaboratory Coordinating Center, introduced the HEAL initiative, which is designed to enhance pain management and improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction. The goal of the initiative is to provide scientific solutions to the opioid crisis. It includes a set of large-scale pragmatic trials that will receive logistical and technical support from the NIH Collaboratory Coordinating Center.

 

While experience with ePCTs is growing, many distinct challenges remain. As the conduct of ePCTs gains momentum, there is a rich opportunity to use collective experiences to refine best practices to real-world evidence generation and help solve urgent public health problems.

May 31, 2019: Adapting Clinical Trial Design to Meet the Needs of Learning Health Systems (Harriette Van Spall, MD, MPH)

Speaker

Harriette G.C. Van Spall, MD, MPH, FRCPC
Associate Professor of Medicine
Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology
Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact
McMaster University
Population Health Research Institute

Topic

Adapting Clinical Trial Design to Meet the Needs of Learning Health Systems

Keywords

Learning health system; Pragmatic clinical trial; Patient-Centered Care Transitions in Heart Failure (PACT-HF); Heart failure; Stepped-wedge cluster trial

Key Points

  • Characteristics of a learning health system include:
    • Possessing a culture of knowledge and quality improvement
    • Encouraging research innovation by embedding research into clinical practice and generating knowledge at the point of care
    • Harnessing data from electronic health records and claims/administrative databases
    • Fostering trust between research and clinical teams
    • Engaging patients, clinicians, and key stakeholders
  • The Patient-Centered Care Transitions in Heart Failure (PACT-HF) trial evaluated the effectiveness of a group of transitional care services in patients hospitalized for HF within a publicly funded healthcare system.
  • Challenges of a learning health system include integrating care, intervention, and communications across silos; streamlining workflow; preventing “contamination” of usual care; and the limited interoperability of EHRs and slow updates to claims/administrative datasets.

Discussion Themes

Efficacy in explanatory randomized clinical trials (RCTs) does not equate to effectiveness in real-world settings.

Decisions about implementation of an intervention are not made “live”; you must wait until the study has ended, all the data are available for analysis, and analysis is complete before you can inform decision-maker partners about the risks and benefits of the intervention.

Read more about the PACT-HF study and results in JAMA Network (Van Spall et al. 2019)

Tags

#pctGR, @Collaboratory1

May 16, 2019: NIH Collaboratory Investigators Author Recommendations for Responding to Guideline or Policy Changes That Affect Ongoing Pragmatic Trials

A new perspective article by NIH Collaboratory investigators describes the unique, unexpected challenges researchers face when clinical practice guidelines and policies change during the conduct of a pragmatic clinical trial (PCT). The article was published online this week in Clinical Trials.

The NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Projects are PCTs that test interventions to address urgent public health problems. They involve hundreds to thousands of participants and generally include usual care as a control arm. During the course of these years-long trials, clinical practice guidelines and policies changed due to new evidence from observational studies, small trials, and shifting expert opinion. Such changes can have profound effects on usual care and, therefore, threaten the ability of the PCTs to address the questions they were designed to answer. Investigators must strike a balance between the primary ethical obligation to protect patients by adhering to new best-practice guidelines and policy and the secondary, yet crucial, obligation to develop high-quality evidence to improve care.

“PCTs are an important means of producing high-quality evidence needed to better inform clinical practice. However, when guidelines or reimbursement policies change during the conduct of a PCT, the ethical obligation to gather information to develop evidence-based practices may conflict with the primary ethical obligation to participants.” — Curtis et al, Clinical Trials, 2019

Based on their aggregate experience with the NIH Collaboratory, the authors provide broad recommendations and strategies for overcoming these challenges, including protecting the well-being of patients; involving stakeholders, health system leaders, and the entity charged with data and safety monitoring; and actively monitoring changes and site-level responses to them. If changes to the standard of care are merited, investigators should provide equal opportunity and support for the recommended changes. Finally, during the design phase, investigators should communicate with the entities charged with creating guidelines to see what is needed and to anticipate possible future changes.

“The ability to appropriately address the tension between modifications to clinical guidelines and the need to generate quality evidence to support those guidelines is a crucial consideration for the fulfilment of a learning health system.” — Curtis et al, Clinical Trials, 2019

April 19, 2019: Trauma Survivors Outcomes & Support (TSOS) Pragmatic Trial: Revisiting Effectiveness & Implementation Aims (Doug Zatzick, MD)

Speaker

Doug Zatzick, MD
Professor of Psychiatry
Harborview Medical Center
University of Washington School of Medicine

Topic

Trauma Survivors Outcomes & Support (TSOS) Pragmatic Trial: Revisiting Effectiveness & Implementation Aims

Keywords

Trauma outcomes; Demonstration Project; Hybrid study design; Implementation science; Pragmatic clinical trial; Cluster randomization; Stepped-wedge design; Posttraumatic stress disorder; PRECIS-2; Mental health intervention

Key Points

  • The TSOS Demonstration Project is a cluster-randomized, stepped-wedge trial conducted at 25 U.S. trauma centers. The intervention involves an electronic health record PTSD screen and a baseline PTSD and comorbidity assessment. TSOS is turned on at each site across 4 “waves.”
  • During the course of this hybrid effectiveness-implementation trial, two domains on PRECIS-2 (Pragmatic-Explanatory Continuum Indicator Summary) were scored as more pragmatic and one domain as more explanatory than at the outset of the study.
  • The study team developed a methodology for assessing TSOS implementation aims. Called RAPICE (Rapid Assessment Procedure Informed Clinical Ethnography), the method yielded findings around recurrent intervention and research staff turnover across sites; observations that some patients do not engage in the intervention; and ways to inform a priori secondary hypotheses that suggest per-protocol modifications to the original intention-to-treat analyses.
  • TSOS will present results at the 2020 summit of the American College of Surgeons with the potential to integrate findings into the College’s regulatory and verification processes.

Discussion Themes

Regarding the need to collect outcome data, there may be an important distinction between two aspects of “pragmatic.” That is, while collecting outcome data makes a trial more expensive (one aspect of pragmatic), it doesn’t necessarily affect relevance or generalizability (another, more important, aspect of pragmatic).

Might there be studies which, by design, are not aiming to be on the outer [more pragmatic] spokes of the PRECIS-2 wheel?

Read more about the TSOS Demonstration Project.

Tags

#pctGR, @Collaboratory1, @PRECIS_2

April 22, 2019: TiME Trial Confirms Feasibility of Embedding Large Pragmatic Trials in Clinical Care

Laura Dember

The primary results of the Time to Reduce Mortality in End-Stage Renal Disease (TiME) trial, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, were published online this month in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The study confirmed the feasibility of embedding a large pragmatic clinical trial in clinical care delivery.

Although maintenance hemodialysis has long been a staple of care for patients with end-stage renal disease, there are limited data from clinical trials to inform optimal approaches, including the optimal duration of hemodialysis sessions. The TiME trial investigators, in partnership with 2 large dialysis provider organizations, evaluated the effects of a longer hemodialysis session duration on mortality and hospitalization rate among more than 7000 patients receiving care in 266 dialysis facilities.

The TiME trial was discontinued early (median follow-up, 1.1 years) because there was an insufficient difference in mean hemodialysis session duration between the intervention group and the usual care group. The investigators observed no reduction in mortality or hospitalization rate in either group.

Despite ending early, the trial met important objectives for informing the implementation of large pragmatic clinical trials embedded in health care systems. In a large multicenter study with no onsite research personnel, the investigators quickly and efficiently enrolled a large number of participants using an opt-out consent approach. The study data were obtained entirely from the electronic health and administrative records of the partnering dialysis provider organizations and were generated from routine clinical care delivery.

“The TiME trial provides an important foundation for future pragmatic trials in dialysis as well as in other settings,” said Dr. Laura M. Dember of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, the principal investigator of the TiME trial.

The TiME trial was supported within the NIH Collaboratory by a cooperative agreement from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and received logistical and technical support from the NIH Collaboratory Coordinating Center. Download a study snapshot about the TiME trial, and learn more about the NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Projects.

April 15, 2019: Registration Now Open for Workshop on the Design & Analysis of Embedded Pragmatic Clinical Trials (ePCT)

The NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory is hosting a one-day workshop on the Design & Analysis of Embedded Pragmatic Clinical Trials (ePCTs) on May 2, 2019, in the Lister Hill Auditorium on the NIH Campus.

The workshop will include a series of moderated discussions that focus on issues of measuring trial outcomes from available data sources, potential randomization strategies, specific ePCT design considerations, and unique challenges associated with ePCTs. Panel discussions will utilize case examples from the Collaboratory repertoire and beyond to illustrate how clinical investigators and biostatisticians work to address research questions posed by specific trials.

The Workshop Website provides information on meeting logistics, agenda, and registration. There is also an option to attend the workshop remotely via the NIH Videoconference Center, and those details are also available at the Workshop Website.

March 29, 2019: ICD-Pieces: Lessons Learned in an Ongoing Trial (Miguel Vazquez, MD, George (Holt) Oliver, MD, PhD)

Speakers

Miguel A. Vazquez, MD
Professor of Medicine
Clinical Chief Nephrology Division
UT Southwestern Medical Center

George (Holt) Oliver, MD, PhD
Vice President Clinical Informatics
Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation

Topic

ICD-Pieces: Lessons Learned in an Ongoing Trial

Keywords

Multiple chronic conditions; Chronic kidney disease; Hypertension; Diabetes; Pieces™; Electronic health record; Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation; Primary care; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Key Points

  • Improving Chronic Disease Management with Pieces™ (ICD-Pieces) is an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project that is implementing a novel technology platform (Pieces) to enable the use of electronic health record data in the management of chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and hypertension within primary care practices.
  • The aim of the study is to reduce hospitalizations, emergency department visits, readmissions, and cardiovascular events and deaths for patients with multiple chronic conditions.
  • ICD-Pieces is employing centralized clinical decision support across 4 large, diverse healthcare systems in addition to the use of Practice Facilitators within primary care.

Discussion Themes

In embedded pragmatic clinical trials conducted in real-world settings, it is important to anticipate changes over the course of the study, which could involve changes at every level, from staff turnover to changes in national policies or standards.

As one of the largest healthcare providers in the world for patients with chronic kidney disease, the VA has been an effective healthcare system partner in the ICD-Pieces trial.

When partnering with healthcare systems, it is important to align goals and plan together, minimize disruption, anticipate and adapt to changes, and create a sustainable foundation for future studies.

Learn more about ICD-Pieces on their website.

Tags

#pctGR, @Collaboratory1

March 13, 2019: PROVEN Publishes Study of Nursing Home Characteristics Associated With Implementation of an Advance Care Planning Video Intervention

The Collaboratory Demonstration Project Pragmatic Trial of Video Education in Nursing Homes (PROVEN) is testing the effectiveness of a novel advance care planning (ACP) video education program in 360 nursing homes within 2 large nursing home healthcare systems. The investigators of PROVEN recently published a study that examines the characteristics of nursing homes associated with implementation of the video. They found that lower quality nursing homes (rated 1 star) had lower offer rates than higher quality nursing homes, suggesting that ongoing support might be necessary in these settings, as well as engagement with a local champion.

ACP is a process by which individuals define their future goals and preferences for medical treatment at the end of life and discuss these goals with their family and healthcare providers. ACP is especially important for nursing home residents, who often receive unnecessary care and experience burdensome transitions at the end of life. The ACP intervention in PROVEN is delivered by an onsite champion at the facility—usually a social worker with structured training in how and when to offer and show the ACP videos to residents and families.

 “These results have implications for future pragmatic trials in the NH [nursing home] setting because ongoing engagement between research and NH staff appears crucial for successful integration of interventions into routine clinical practice. Future research is needed to understand how to best engage NHs in implementation and encourage communication between NHs to share pragmatic strategies for improving clinical practice without the support of research staff.”

– Loomer et al. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association