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

May 8, 2019: Dr. Greg Simon Receives National Suicide Prevention Award

At the Lifesavers Gala in New York last night, Dr. Greg Simon received the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP’s) Research Award for his contributions to suicide prevention. Dr. Simon leads the Suicide Prevention Outreach Trial (SPOT), an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project that builds on previous work demonstrating that patients who answer “yes” to thoughts of self-harm on routinely administered PHQ-9 questionnaires at primary care visits are more likely to attempt suicide. For these high-risk patients, SPOT explores different modes of outreach (care management or online skills training versus usual care) to prevent suicide.

“There’s a conspiracy of silence around suicidal thoughts, because it’s awkward to discuss. So we’ve found that we have to incorporate talking about it into our standard care. Our suicide prevention work is a great example of how research and care keep influencing each other to improve our patients’ health. When research springs from clinicians’ and patients’ questions, ‘learning health systems’ can put results into practice much faster than the oft-cited 17-year lag.” — Dr. Greg Simon, from the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute Press Release

Dr. Simon and his colleagues are also studying how machine-learning models can be used to predict risk of suicide. The models combine the PHQ-9 mental health questionnaire responses with information from electronic health records, including prior suicide attempts and mental health and substance use diagnoses. In a blog post regarding his research (and recent publication) on machine learning, Dr. Simon compares machine learning to warning lights on cars:

Our paper prompted many questions from clinicians and health system leaders about the practical utility of risk predictions:

“Are machine learning algorithms accurate enough to replace clinicians’ judgment?” our clinical partners asked.

“No,” I answered, “but they are accurate enough to direct clinicians’ attention.”

The AFSP also honored four others, including Anderson Cooper, a CNN and 60-minutes correspondent, and Kate Snow, an NBC news correspondent, for their work raising public awareness of suicide prevention.

Read more about what inspired Dr. Simon to study mental health.

May 2, 2019: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of STOP CRC Trial Finds Wide Variation Across Health Centers

A cost-effectiveness analysis of the Strategies and Opportunities to Stop Colorectal Cancer in Priority Populations (STOP CRC) trial, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, revealed wide variation across participating health centers. The study’s findings reflect the complexity of implementing an intervention in pragmatic research involving community health clinics with diverse patient populations, clinic structures, and resources.

The study was published recently in Preventive Medicine.

The STOP CRC trial tested a program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in 26 clinics within 8 federal qualified health centers in California and Oregon. Intervention clinics embedded a tool in the electronic health record to identify patients who were overdue for screening and mailed a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit to these patients. Screening rates were higher overall in intervention clinics than in clinics that practiced usual care, despite low and highly variable rates of implementation of the program among participating clinics.

In the subsequent cost-effectiveness study, variability in program implementation was likewise a key factor in the results. Intervention delivery costs were highly variable across health centers, and the incremental cost-effectiveness of the intervention was diminished somewhat because usual care clinics generated more colonoscopies than intervention clinics after abnormal FIT results.

The study has implications for the design of implementation strategies in pragmatic trials that are embedded in diverse community health centers.

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

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 18, 2019: New Commentary Highlights Value of Pragmatic Trials for Learning Health Systems

In an eGEMs commentary published this month, Leah Tuzzio and Dr. Eric Larson of the NIH Collaboratory’s Health Care Systems Interactions Core discuss the value and impact of embedded pragmatic clinical trials for learning health systems.

Pragmatic trials embedded in healthcare systems are designed to align with the care delivery goals of the health system to produce better health outcomes. The commentary highlights the NIH Collaboratory’s pragmatic trials as “the best-case examples to learn about the challenges of conducting research and of dissemination, implementation and sustainability of research results in real-world settings.”

Designing and implementing an embedded pragmatic clinical trial “requires a bidirectional flow of information and cooperative problem solving between investigator teams and clinical teams,” an important feature of learning health systems. In implementing the trial, the clinical and research teams not only generate useful data, but also demonstrate how the trial results can be incorporated into evidence-based clinical practice.

The commentary is part of a special collection of eGEMs articles commemorating 25 years of the Health Care Systems Research Network.

eGEMs is AcademyHealth’s peer-reviewed, open-access journal for electronic health data and methods. At AcademyHealth’s 2019 Annual Research Meeting in Washington, DC, the NIH Collaboratory will offer a full-day pre-conference seminar on the essentials of embedded pragmatic clinical trials. Registration for the seminar is open now.

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.

April 5, 2019: The ENGAGES Pragmatic Trial and the Power of Negative Thinking (Michael S. Avidan, MBBCh)

Speaker

Michael S. Avidan, MBBCh
Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology
Chief, Division of Clinical and Translational Research
School of Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology
Washington University in St. Louis

Topic

The ENGAGES Pragmatic Trial and the Power of Negative Thinking

Keywords

Pragmatic clinical trial; Surgery; Electroencephalography; EEG-guided anesthesia; Postoperative delirium; Older patients; Patient-centered outcomes; ENGAGES

Key Points

  • The ENGAGES pragmatic trial evaluated whether electroencephalogram-guided anesthetic administration decreases postoperative delirium incidence in older patients undergoing major surgery.
  • Delirium is a disturbance in consciousness or change in cognition for a short period of time as a consequence of a medical illness. 25% to 50% of older adults experience delirium after major surgery, and the number is even higher for ICU patients.
  • The ENGAGES trial found that, among older adults undergoing major surgery, EEG-guided anesthetic administration, compared with usual care, did not decrease the incidence of postoperative delirium.

Discussion Themes

Aside from the intensity of patient follow-up and the expertise needed to deliver the EEG-guided protocol, the ENGAGES study fulfilled the criteria for a pragmatic clinical trial as shown in PRECIS-2 ratings.

Clinicians participating in ENGAGES were not researchers but carried out the intervention on the ground. They understood the appeal of it and found it easy to implement.

With respect to study findings, instead of referring to “negative” or “null” findings, why not say, “this is what we found and these are interesting findings.”

Learn more about the results of the ENGAGES trial in JAMA (Feb 2019).

Tags

#delirium, #pctGR, @Collaboratory1, @WUSTL_med

April 9, 2019: EMBED Awarded Continuation From Planning to Implementation Phase

The investigators of EMBED, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, have received approval to move from the planning phase to the implementation phase of their study. Congratulations to Dr. Ted Melnick, Dr. Gail D’Onofrio, and the EMBED study team for their excellent work!

“The opioid crisis is taking a devastating toll on Americans, their families, and their communities. The EMBED project leverages the urgency of our nation’s opioid crisis to bring together leaders in human-centered design, clinical informatics, data coordination, emergency medicine, and addiction medicine to provide an integrated, user-friendly solution to emergency clinicians caring for people with opioid addiction.”   —Dr. Edward Melnick, Co-PI of EMBED

EMBED (Pragmatic Trial of User-Centered Clinical Decision Support to Implement Emergency Department-Initiated Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder) is designed to evaluate the effect of computerized clinical decision support on rates of emergency department-initiated buprenorphine/naloxone (BUP), which is a well-established outpatient treatment for people with opioid use disorder. BUP can only be prescribed by appropriately trained physicians. Although patients with opioid use disorder often seek medical care in emergency departments, the practice of initiating BUP in the emergency department is not common.

“Initiating buprenorphine in the emergency department has the potential to improve and save so many lives, but currently adoption rates are close to 0%. We believe that the EMBED intervention will be a crucial part of getting this evidence-based practice into routine emergency care.”   —Dr. Edward Melnick, Co-PI of EMBED

NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Projects begin with a 1-year, milestone-driven planning phase. Projects become eligible to move to the implementation phase after an administrative review of progress toward scientific milestones and feasibility requirements.

In the planning phase, the EMBED study team developed the clinician decision support tools intended to facilitate the management of people with untreated opioid use disorder who seek care in emergency departments. In the next phase, the team will implement the trial and test the effect of the clinical decision support tool compared to usual care on outcomes in patients with opioid use disorder who seek care in emergency departments.

EMBED was supported within the NIH Collaboratory by a cooperative agreement from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study also received logistical and technical support from the NIH Collaboratory Coordinating Center through a cooperative agreement from the Office of Strategic Coordination within the Office of the NIH Director.

 

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