Wisdom of the Crowd: Finding the Most Promising Innovations to Teach Value

16 10 2013

Earlier this year, we launched the Teaching Value and Choosing Wisely Competition in conjunction with Costs of Care and the ABIM Foundation.  Why a competition?   Not surprisingly, traditional “literature review” yielded little by way of promising strategies for educators who wished to learn how to teach about value.  However, we had all learned of isolated stories of success, occasionally through attending professional meetings, sometimes via networking with colleagues, or more often through just plain word of mouth.  To help bring these stories of success to the fore, we relied on a crowdsourcing model by launching a competition to engage a larger community of individuals to tell us their story.  Of course, there were moments we wondered if we would get any submissions.  Fortunately, we did not have anything to worry about!  In June, we received 74 submissions, from 14 specialties with innovations and bright ideas that targeted both medical students, residents, faculty and interprofessional learners.

Reviewing each abstract to determine the most promising practices that could be easily scaled up to other institutions was not an easy task.  One interesting struggle was the inherent tradeoff between feasibility and novelty – what was feasible may not have been so novel, while you were left wondering whether the most innovative abstracts would be feasible to implement.  Fortunately, due to the outstanding expert panel of judges, we were able to narrow the field.  While all the submissions were interesting and worthy in their own right, it was clear that there were some that rose to the top.  For example, while every submission included some level of training, the most promising innovations and bright ideas employed methods beyond traditional training- such as a systems fix using electronic health records, a cultural change through valuing restraint, or oversight or feedback mechanisms to ensure trainees get the information they need to assess their practice at the point-of-care.

Perhaps it is not surprising that several of our winners came from innovations or bright ideas developed by trainees or medical students.  After all, the junior learners are on the sharp end of patient care and in the position to see the simplest and most elegant solutions to promote teaching value. Giffin Daughtridge, a  second year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania proposed linking third year medical students to actual patients to not only review their history, but also their actual medical bill.  As emergency medicine residents at NYU, Michelle Lin and Larissa Laskowski were inspired by Hurricane Sandy to develop an easy to use curricular program for her peers.   At Yale, junior faculty Robert Fogerty instigated a friendly competition among medical students, interns, residents and attending physicians to reach the correct diagnosis with the fewest resources possible during morning report style conferences.

The methods employed to achieve success were equally diverse, ranging from repurposing traditional tools to using new methods altogether.  Building on the traditional clinical vignette, Tanner Caverly and Brandon Combs launched the “Do No Harm Project” at the University of Colorado to collect vignettes about value to learn from. This program also informed the launch of “Teachable Moments” section in JAMA Internal Medicine that is now accepting submissions from trainees.  Meanwhile, Amit Pahwa, Lenny Feldman, and Dan Brotman from Johns Hopkins University proposed individualized dashboards that would make lab and imaging use for each trainee available for feedback and benchmarking against their peers.   And Steven Brown and Cheryl O’Malley at Banner Health proposed a local high-value competition that resulted in more than 40 entries from trainees. Drs. Brown and O’Malley plan to implement the most promising ones.

These are just a few of the innovations and bright ideas that were submitted. You can check out the entire list of innovations and bright ideas on the Teaching Value forum.  Our hope is that this is just the start of developing a network of individuals interested in working together to transform medical education by incorporating principles of stewardship.  So, in this case, we recommend that you follow this crowd.

Vineet Arora, MD MAPP  on behalf of the Teaching Value Team members including Chris Moriates, MD, Andy Levy, MD, and Neel Shah MD MPP 

Join us Thursday October 17th at 9pm EST on Twitter for #meded chat where we will discuss the winning innovations and bright ideas!





From Curricula to Crowdsourcing: Trainees Taking Charge to Teach Value

6 06 2013

As part of this week’s Association of American Medical Colleges Integrating Quality (IQ) meeting, we are featuring a post that originally appeared at Wing of Zock about trainees efforts to teach value.

Medical education’s efforts to incorporate the teaching of value-based care into formalized curricula have been remarkably few and fraught with challenges. More than 60% of med school grads feel they get inadequate instruction in medical economics, a figure that hasn’t budged in more than five years. At the same time, residents are subjected to the insidious influence of a “Hidden Curriculum” that seems to shun conservation in favor of consumption. The result is predictable: we are churning out providers that feel neither prepared nor compelled to allocate clinical resources more sustainably.

It’s not uncommon for trainees to contemplate the cost of a test or treatment. But that thought rarely ends up being more than a fleeting curiosity. Whilst juggling an exponentially increasing body of data and evidence, consensus-based guidelines, attending preferences and the increasing complexity of patients, the thought of adding another variable to our calculus seems daunting.

The common refrain is we don’t have enough information to make value-based judgments. Discussion of cost-effectiveness among trainees usually centers on price transparency, or rather, a lack thereof.  Survey the workroom of an academic hospital and you’ll get five different estimates for the cost of a CT scan. The monumental price tag of some items is even the source of folk-lore among residents: “Did you know that stress test costs $5,000?!” Adding to the myth’s power is the fact that prior to the recent decision by Health and Human Services to release hospital chargemasters, these documents have been treated like trade secrets. And even if an enterprising resident were able to obtain the classified dossier, the listed charge would bear no relation to the price the patient eventually pays.

But clinical malaise and the abstruse nature of hospital pricing should not prevent us from grappling with the excess and overuse typical of most training environments. As tertiary referral centers, teaching hospitals attract a subset of patients seeking an exhaustive work-up or more aggressive care from thought leaders – our mentors – in subspecialty fields.  Accordingly, these mentors are more likely to ask, “Why didn’t you order test X?” ratber than, “Why did you order test X, and what are you going to do with the information?” . A superfluous test is a “good thought.” A step-wise evaluation is often “expedited” with a single round of testing. An outside work-up is repeated to have “all the data in-house.”  These behaviors are then reinforced by our conferences, which focus on extensive diagnostic evaluations of rare diseases.

At its core, this is an issue of culture and our unbridled pursuit of clinical excellence. Trainees can and should help refashion this culture to achieve better value for patients. Student activism has heavily influenced the practices of today’s medical schools and residency programs, perhaps best evidenced by the American Medical Student Association’s PharmFree Campaign. The success of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in spreading the principles of quality improvement (QI) can be attributed in part to the enthusiasm of trainees, empowered by the Open School to create and champion their own curricula. At a microsystem level, residents might incorporate value into QI projects and institutional research or lobby at an administrative level for increased information about the costs of their practice. As individuals, we can leverage our greater familiarity with new media and technology to promote resources such as Choosing Wisely, Healthcare Bluebook, and Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.

There are promising signs that current physicians-in-training are committed to championing the principles of resource stewardship. Costs of Care, a 501c3 non-profit social venture founded by trainees, has used crowdsourcing to engage both patients and physicians in the discussion of value-based care. More than 300 real patient and physician stories illustrating opportunities to provide high value care have materialized from their widely publicized annual essay contest. More formalized curricula in cost awareness at UCSF and UPenn originated from the work of residents. As a medical student, I was fortunate to be a part of a team that created a web-based curriculum in overuse.

There are undoubtedly other examples of “conservationists” in training out there. We want to meet you! We will be presenting our work at the upcoming AAMC IQ conference on June 6th. Come to Chicago, tell us about your project, be it a completed program or just a fresh idea. Or you can find us online at http://teachingvalue.org/competition.

–Andy Levy MD & Chris Moriates MD

(members of the Teaching Value Team)





Time to Fight Horrors of Healthcare Costs by Taking Charge of Teaching Value

31 10 2012

This Halloween, several creative costumes have emerged from the zingers of the Presidential debates – Big Bird costumes are selling out like hotcakes. For a more do it yourself look, here’s a recipe for Binders full of women.  The debate over the best way to contain healthcare costs have also been a central part of the debates, and yet medical bills do not seem to make popular costumes. Maybe that is because that unaffordability of healthcare is too horrifying for ironic humor – even on Halloween.

As we head into the election, patients are increasingly being terrorized by runaway healthcare costs.  Americans outspend our peers two to one and still seem to be worse off. We overtest and overtreat to the point of absurdity.   According to a recent report, “The U.S. did 100 MRI tests and 265 CT tests for every 1000 people in 2010 — more than twice the average in other OECD countries.”  The causes are multifactorial but the solutions can’t be left to presidents and policymakers alone. An important part of the responsibility rests with healthcare professionals and the educators who train them.

Experts in health professions education and economics have lamented the poor state of education on healthcare costs.  Over 60% of U.S. medical graduates describe their medical economics training as “inadequate.”  Not only are medical trainees unaware of the costs of the tests that they order, they are rarely positioned to understand the downstream financial harms medical bills can have on patients.  More recently, Medicare, the largest funder of residency training in the United States, is concerned that we are not producing the physicians to practice cost-conscious medicine in an era of diminished resources.

We have been scared in the dark too long and this Halloween the time has come to Take Charge.

Join us now at http://teachingvalue.org/takecharge

About Teaching Value: the Costs of Care Teaching Value Project is an initiative of Costs of Care that is funded by the ABIM Foundation.  Our team is comprised of medical educators and trainees who believe it is time to transform the American healthcare system by empowering cost-conscious caregivers to deflate medical bills and protect patients’ wallets.  Our web-based video modules are designed to be easy to access for anyone anywhere and provide a starting point for tackling this problem. It’s time to emerge from the darkness and do our part to tame the terror of healthcare costs.





Teaching Costs of Care: Opening Pandora’s Box

27 07 2012

Last week, I tried something new with our residents…we tried to talk about why physicians overuse tests.   This is the topic of the moment, as the American College of Physicians (ACP) just dropped their long-awaited new High Value Cost Conscious Curriculum for what has now been dubbed the “7th competency” for physicians-in-training.   In addition to the ACP curriculum, which I served as one of the reviewers for, I also am involved with another project led by Costs of Care to use video vignettes to illustrate teaching points to physicians-in-training called the Teaching Value Project.  With funding by the ABIM Foundation , we have been able to develop and pilot a video vignette that that depicts the main reasons why physicians overuse tests.   The discussion was great and the residents certainly picked up on the cues in the video such as duplicative ordering, and that the cost of tests are nebulous to begin with.  But, before I could rejoice about the teaching moments and reflection inspired by the video, I must admit that I felt like Pandora opening the dreaded Box.   Many of the questions and points raised by the residents highlight the difficulty in assuming that teaching doctors about cost-conscious care will translate into lower costs and higher quality.

1)   What about malpractice?  One of our residents mentioned that really the problem is malpractice and that test overuse was often a problem due to the “CYA” attitude that physicians have to adopt to avoid malpractice.   It is true that states with higher malpractice premiums spend more on care.  However, this difference is small and does not fully explain rising healthcare costs.  More interestingly, the fear of being sued is often more powerful than the actual risk of beingsued.  For example, doctors’ reported worries about malpractice vary little across states, even though malpractice laws vary by state.

2)   What about patients who demand testing? Another resident highlighted that even with training, it was often that patients did not feel like anything was done until a test was ordered.  Watchful waiting is sometimes such an unsatisfying ‘treatment’ plan.  As a result, residents reported ordering tests so that patients would feel like they did something.  In some cases, patients did not even believe that a clinical history and exam couldlead to a ‘diagnosis’ – as one resident reported a patient asked of them incredulously, “well how do you know without doing the imaging test?”

3)   What can we do when the attending wants us to order tests? All of the residents nodded their head in agreement that they have had to order a test that they did not think was indicated, because the attending wanted to be thorough and make sure there was nothing wrong.  I find this interesting, since as an attending, you are often making decisions based on the information you are given from the resident – so could it be that more information or greater supervision would  solve this problem?  Or is it that attendings are hard wired to ask for everything since they never thought about cost?

4)   Whose money is it anyway that we are saving?  This is really the question that was on everyone’s mind.  Is it the patient’s money?  After all, if a patient is insured, it is easy to say that it’s not saving their money because insurance will pay.   Well, what about things that aren’t even reimbursed well..doesn’t the hospital pay then?  Finally, a voice in the corner said it is society that pays – and that is hard to get your head around initially, but it is true.  Increased costs of care are eventually passed down to everyone – for example, patients will be charged higher premiums from their insurance companies who are paying out more.  Hospitals will charge more money to those that can pay to recover any losses.

5)   Will education really change anything?  So, this is my question that I am actually asking myself at the end of this exercise.… Education by itself is often considered a weak intervention, and it is often the support of the culture or the learning climate that the education is embedded in.  The hidden curriculum is indeed powerful, and it would be a mistake to think that education will result in practice change if the system is designed to lead to overordering tests.  As quality improvement guru and Dartmouth professor Paul Batalden has said (or at least that’s who this quote is often attributed to when its not attributed to Don Berwick) “Every system is perfectly designed to achieve the results it gets.”  Therefore, understanding what characteristics of systems promote cost conscious care is a critical step.

However,  before we dismiss education altogether from our toolbox, it is important to note that education is necessary to raise awareness for the need to change.  And in the words of notable educational psychologist Robert Gagne, the first step in creating a learning moment is getting attention.  And, by that measure, this exercise was successful – it certainly did get attention.  Yet, it also did something else…it created the tension for change, a necessary prerequisite for improvement.  It  certainly cultivated a desire to learn more about how to achieve this change….which is what our team is currently working towards with the Teaching Value Project.    So while learning why tests are overused is a first step… judging by Pandora’s box, it is certainly not the last.

–Vineet Arora MD

Special thanks to Andy Levy and Neel Shah for their hard work on this module.





Where are the Lollipop Men in Healthcare?

9 04 2012

I recently watched Dr. Atul Gawande on video describe how what American healthcare needs is pit crews and not cowboys.  This sentiment is also memorialized in his thought-provoking writings for the New Yorker.

Interestingly, Dr. Gawande is not the first person I have heard to suggest such a thing.  A colleague named Dr. Ken Catchpole actually studied Formula 1 pit crews and used the information to guide improvements in pediatric anesthesia handoffs.  His observations were astounding and really highlighted how the culture of medicine is different from Formula 1. In Formula 1, pit crews have a ‘fanatical’ approach to training that relies on repitition.   In healthcare, the first time we often do something is “on the fly”.  Moreover, on-the-job training usually means ‘checking the box’ by attending an annual patient safety lecture.   Perhaps the most important was the role of the “lollipop man” in pit crews.   And yes, even thought it’s a funny name, it’s a critical job.   As shown in the video, the Lollipop man is responsible for signaling and coordinating to the driver the major steps of the pit stop.  When it is safe to step on the gas, the Lollipop man will signal to the driver.  Sounds like a thing so perhaps it can be automated.  Wrong.  When Ferrari tried replacing the Lollipop man with a stop light that signaled the driver, the confusion created (does amber mean stop or go?) led to a driver leaving the pit with his gas still connected.  Quickly after this incident, Ferrari announced it would go back to the tried and trusted Lollipop “hu”man.

So, who are the Lollipop men (or women) in healthcare?  Turns out that Dr. Catchpole and his team observed that it was often unclear who was leading the handoff process that they were observing in healthcare.  With team training and system reengineering, Dr. Catchpole’s team was able to reorganize the pediatric handover so there was a Lollipop man (anesthesiologist) at the helm.

While these handoffs represent a critical element of healthcare communication in a focused area, it is symbolic of a larger problem in healthcare – we are still missing “Lollipop men” to coordinate healthcare for patients across multiple sites and specialties.  This is even more critical on the 2-year anniversary of healthcare reform and this month’s match results. At a time when we need to cultivate and train more “Lollipop men” to coordinate care for patients, we have had stable numbers of students who enter primary care fields.   And like the lessons from the Ferrari team, it is doubtful that a computer (even Watson who is now working in medicine apparently) will be able to do the job of a Lollipop man.

So, how can we recruit more Lollipop men?  While it is tempting to blame the rise or fall of various specialties and market forces, it is important to recognize that being this is a difficult job to do when the Lollipop is broken or even nonexistent.  Without the tools to execute the critical coordination that Lollipop men rely on, they cannot do their job.  So, the first order of business to ensure that the Lollipop, or an infrastructure to coordinate care for patients through their race that is their healthcare journey, exists.  As the Supreme Court debates the future of the Accountable Care Act, there is no greater time to highlight the importance of the Lollipop.

–Vineet Arora MD





A Modern Day Fairy Tale for Medical Education

28 12 2011

Recently, I was asked to speak about innovations in inpatient medical education for leaders in general internal medicine.  Knowing that I would be last in a distinguished lineup of speakers and that my charge was to discuss novel ways to teach in the inpatient setting, I thought it would be important to review how its been done for a long time — so long that it is embodied in one of my favorite fairy tales…

You see, Cinderella dreamed of one day becoming the best clinical educator in the academic kingdom.  Unfortunately, her evil stepmom “Mrs. Dean” scoffed at Cinderella and said “teaching does not pay…look at your hard working and loyal stepbrothers….“Bill” has been our primary breadwinner due to his high volume of Patient Care and “Grant” –yes, while its feast or famine with him, just got a big payout for his Clinical Research.  Teaching? That’s no way to make a living.  Go work work for them until you figure you what you want to do.” 

So Cinderella toiled away…until one day, she met the Godmother of a grateful patient “Mrs. Fairy” who donated a small sum money to improve inpatient teaching…and with this Cinderella was able to transform herself into one of the leading teachers of the new curriculum (she was also able to get a raise to update her wardrobe!).  She quickly became a hit among all the medical students and residents who were truly “charmed”.  Then one day, at the stroke of midnight, Cinderella’s protected time ran out…and all of her work went up in smoke as she was forced back to her life of hardship seeing patients and doing research.  The students and residents were distraught at the thought of losing their most prized teacher and searched the academic complex for her –they were so moved they wanted to award her the precious “Glass Slipper” teaching award, which not only is bestowed with honor, but also a promotion to become a tenured educator in the academic kingdom.   And she lived happily ever after…

While you may think that this is the stuff of fairy tales (especially happily ever after), we all have Cinderellas at our institutions.  And those Cinderellas want to teach, but they struggle not only with funding, but also the realities of today’s inpatient environment.  So, what are these Cinderellas to do? Well, there are few of the ways to ensure that clinical teaching is rewarded – and possible resolutions for the New Year for medical educators.

  • Focus on a gap that needs to be filled:  Protected time is most likely be awarded to someone who is filling a need – think new curriculum that is mandated by LCME/ACGME or other alphabet soup organizational body.  What is the specific need that you can fill with teaching?  Often this may require thinking about a topic that may not exactly match your initial interest, but it is more likely to lead to funding for your teaching.
  • Learn new teaching methods:  Teaching methods for today’s wards are not well developed in the land of an organized chaos.  By incorporating a new platform for teaching (think case blogs, video reflection, standardized patients, or a host of other ideas), you can breathe new life into an old topic.  For example, using simulation to teach end of life discussion, or using blogs to teach about professionalism, can result in a novel curricular program that not only engage next generation learners, but also gains attention of leaders in medical education.
  • Document the effectiveness of the teaching – it is only through methodological evaluation that one can document that teaching translates into practice.  By showing that teaching can be linked to improvements in knowledge, attitudes, or practice, it is more likely that someone (maybe a fairy) will finance this teaching as critical to the mission of the hospital.  Think about procedural training that shows reduction in central lines.
  • Work with a mentor – Just like ‘big research’, mentorship is still important although not always emphasized. To be honest, mentors can serve to mobilize resources or promote your work with senior leaders.

However, regardless of these strategies, funding for teaching requires institutional leadership to recognize that the academic mission of teaching hospitals is still ‘to teach’.   Of course, this mission is sometimes lost in the chaos of teaching hospitals surviving budget crisis in an increasingly competitive environment.  So during this holiday season as everyone is reminded of the time of giving, now is a great time to remind the fiscally minded Mr. Scrooge in your C-suite that the greatest gift they can give is enabling a teacher to teach the future doctors of our nation.

–Vineet Arora MD





Electronic Health Records, Quality & Safety: Pritzker IHI Open School Recap

13 11 2011

computer hardware,doctors,healthcare,males,medicine,men,PCS,people,people at work,persons,physicians,science,stethoscopes,technology,x-raysA classroom at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine was packed earlier this month with both medical students and students in the Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy (GPHAP) interested in learning more about the IHI and quality improvement.   Dr. Chad Whelan, a hospitalist and institutional leader on quality improvement, facilitated an open discussion about some of the challenges in using electronic health records to improve quality of care and encourage physicians to practice more evidence based medicine.  Some of the topics covered included the unintended consequences of using electronic records, the benefits of an electronic record from an administrative standpoint, and issues surrounding the quality of documentation.  The meeting was organized by students in Pritzker’s Quality and Safety Track with guidance from Laura Botwinick, Director of GPHAP.   During a lively and interactive question and answer session, here are just a few of the questions that were raised by students and the discussion that ensued.

How interoperable are the record systems?  Why aren’t we using one single interoperable system?  While interoperability is a focus of “meaningful use” that is part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, electronic health records industry is also a marketplace with vendors competing for market share.  Because of that, interoperability may not have been achieved earlier. For larger healthcare systems such as the VA, the implementation of CPRS represents an example of an interoperable system across many hospitals nationwide.   Since academic medical centers often have several teaching hospital affiliates, physicians and trainees have to learn to work in several different systems, some of which may not even talk to each other.  While many urban medical centers have adopted electronic health records, a recent study demonstrated only 17% of hospitals capital investments.

What are the reasons behind the findings in the literature that mortality and errors sometimes increase when an EHR is installed?  Medicine is a complex system and sometimes changing one thing without changing another will yield unexpected outcomes.  Furthermore, if bad processes are automated, errors can happen much more quickly and systematically if they were being made in the first place.  That is why it is important to use QI tools to improve systems before an EHR is laid over them.  For example, during a QI intervention for pressure ulcers, the implementation of EHR for nursing documentation actually led to a decrease in the physician recording of pressure ulcers since they did not know where to access nursing notes.

How much training do practicing physicians get when an EHR is deployed?  Training is definitely part of the EHR implementation strategy.  One commonly used approach is to actively train early adopters who can champion it for the late adapters and laggards. At our hospital, that training included several hours of classroom time PLUS watching online video trainings at home with practice tutorials.  However, as the faculty and others present agreed, the learning curve is steep and learning is an ongoing process.  Anecdotally, there is often “reverse mentoring” with many of the residents who learn on the job are able to teach the attendings tricks of the trade.

What can be done to avoid the cut and paste problems that have emerged?  Interestingly, hospitals often have the choice whether to disable cut and paste or keep it active.  By disabling it however, the ability of EHRs to make doctors more efficient is sacrificed.  However, enabling cut and paste creates the risk that the information is out of date or inaccurate.   While many egregious examples have been described in the literature, there are some novel experiments being tried around the country include trying to use different colors for pasted information or creating patient records like wikis so multiple people are updating.   In a handoff curriculum for residents, we do highlight avoiding CoPaGA syndrome (Copy and Paste Gone Amok) by highlighting that it is allowed to cut and paste but their responsibility is to cut, paste, and update.

Are medical students getting trained on electronic health records?  Most learning at present is orientation to a specific system and on-the-job training.  Principles of effective practice with EHR need to be translated into medical education as it is an important core skill that all medical graduates will need.  While medical informatics is covered by in some form in many medical schools, recent debates highlight that more robust teaching on electronic health records needs to evolve and expand.   Moreover, the EHR can be used to actually advance medical education by providing a record of what types of patients a resident sees and assist in performance evaluation of patient care.

–Anthony Aspesi MS2 (with Laura Botwinick and Vineet Arora)








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