Background: Using NIH/NIDA SBIR funds, we are developing a Web-based curriculum for medical students to improve competence and clinical skills performance on treating pain patients with opioids and minimizing risk of opioid misuse.
Objective: To obtain faculty feedback regarding the ability of the proposed curriculum to fill practice gaps and impact clinical skill through practice via chat-based, online standardized patient interviews.
Methods: Through consultants and the AMERSA member list, we recruited preclinical and clinical faculty who teach students about pain or addiction topics. Faculty completed an on-line survey, consisting of structured and open-ended questions about the preliminary curriculum, and a short follow-up phone interview.
Results: Nine faculty (n=9) from seven medical schools participated. They identified topics that are well covered or not fully covered in medical curricula. Faculty provided constructive feedback to improve learning objectives and align topics with curriculum gaps. Suggestions included: 1) simplifying material on patient monitoring and risk reduction, 2) stressing proper screening to assess risk of misuse or diversion before prescribing opioids, and 3) focusing on adequately treating pain while minimizing the risk of potential opioid misuse. Faculty reported that students were under-prepared in most of the topics proposed. Most faculty (89%) agreed or strongly agreed that each proposed course would strengthen clinical skills. A majority (67%) felt that a SP interview in each course would enhance mastery of clinical skills, and 78% agreed or strongly agreed that a chat-based standardized patient interview would be beneficial to student learning.
Conclusions: Faculty needs analysis affirmed that curriculum and performance gaps exist on adequately treating pain patients with opioids. Constructive feedback allowed us to revise our curriculum plan and more closely align each module with ACGME and medical student competencies. Our revised curriculum plan will be re-reviewed by faculty before module development. Preliminary findings lend support to future acceptance of our finalized program.
Purpose (209/250): The majority of providers in the pain practice community have not fully incorporated evidence-based and clinical consensus recommendations for preventing, recognizing, and managing substance misuse and addiction in pain patients. This problem exists despite the fact that the recommendations are not difficult to understand, resources exist, and the risk of mistreatment is obvious [and deleterious for the physician as well as patient]. The majority of these providers did not receive adequate training to detect, prevent, and manage patients at the interface of pain and addiction. More specifically, the problems include: 1) Existing training programs give little attention to the problem of substance misuse and addiction in pain patients, 2) Addiction potential is not seen as a comprehensive understanding of the varying risk in addiction potential, severity, type, history, impact, or duration, 3) Existing training typically focuses on knowledge acquisition rather than skills training, and, 4) Pain treatment providers have little time thus they need quick and simple access to high quality addiction resources when managing pain patients.
To address these problems we have created an online environment that enables pain management providers to better manage co-morbid substance misuse and addiction or risk for addiction in patients suffering from pain, using contract funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Method(s) (160/250): During 2008 we assembled a panel of 12 pain and addiction expert consultants, including physicians, nurses, researchers, and a psychologist. An extensive needs analysis was conducted with primary care providers and with pain and addiction experts (N=56); they provided feedback about the target audience's educational needs and online learning preferences and the proposed education plan.
Usability tests with two different groups of pain management providers (physicians, and nurse-practitioners) were conducted during 2009. The primary focus was to assess the interface of the online "chat-based" standardized patient (SP) interview experience using mixed methods including "think aloud", qualitative surveys and open ended interview questions. Additionally, participants were asked to provide feedback on a "self-assessment" tool which will be included in the training program.
Iterative rounds of review from experts were employed to assess the educational content of the continuing education modules, SP cases, and the informational Guides. Resources were added to an online database based on expert recommendation, Google(R), and PubMed searches.
Results (217/300): We have designed an online environment for pain management providers that provides a unique combination of skills training/continuing education, resources, and collaboration related to the topic of pain and addiction. Pain managers can use the website to collaborate, answer point of care questions, and/or receive CME credit on a just-in-time basis or via standard educational curricula. To provide skills training for primary care and specialist professionals who treat patients with pain problems we created a novel SP educational experience available via Internet chat with a live SP performing the role of a patient with issues relevant to both pain and addiction.
A functional online resource has been created that responds to the usability recommendations and needs analysis work. Six online educational courses and 2 SP cases have been reviewed by experts and will be available for continuing medical education credit in Fall 2010. Over 200 resources are available, each with a short annotation, and the ability for the user to provide an additional critique.
Future work will assess if as a result of this project, the clinician will be able to: 1) reduce the risk of misuse of prescribed substances, 2) recognize and assure adequate treatment of substance misuse and addiction in chronic pain patients, and 3) provide adequate pain management in patients with substance use disorders.
Conclusion (62/100): The project has successfully built a suite of skills training courses with supportive content that offers real world challenges in the form of brief cases, more complicated cases and SPs. The curriculum includes a catalog of quality resources and a high quality search engine that gives users a quick and simple way to find the resources they need using any Internet-capable tool.
Purpose (217/250): Pain and addiction issues are common challenges for physicians. Comorbid substance abuse affects 20 - 40% of patients on opioid therapy for chronic pain. Non-medical use of opiates is common and an indicator of their abuse potential: an estimated 6.2 million people over age 12 have used opiate pain medication in the past month, according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Health professionals may be unaware that addiction is often uncommon among patients being treated for pain; and even when present, there are effective treatment options available.
At the completion of their training, medical students lack clinical skills in assessing pain and addiction potential which can lead to under treatment of pain, overuse of opioids in at-risk patients, diversion, exposure to addictive substances without proper monitoring, and worsening of prior addictive disease. Medical schools currently lack a comprehensive and efficient solution to meet their students' need.
Using funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, we developed an online curriculum for undergraduate medical students on the use of opioids to treat pain when substance abuse is a concern. The curriculum is designed to appeal to medical school course and clerkship directors and to instructors who teach topics related to pain control and assessment, and includes interactive online materials and 7 Standardized Patient cases.
Method(s) (166/250):The authors conducted a needs analysis with medical school faculty members (n=24), resident physicians (n=9), and current medical students (n=20) regarding the need for more instruction on assessment of pain and addiction, and to evaluate proposed topics. A mixed methods technique used online surveys with closed and open ended questions, and semi-structured interviews, yielding both qualitative and quantitative results. Results were used to assess need, measure interest, and determine the most relevant aspects of the curriculum plan for medical students.
A full curriculum was developed based on evidence-based guidelines for opiate prescribing published in February of 2009 by the American Pain Society (APS), the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), and the Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center at Oregon Health, and published literature found using PubMed searches. Content was aligned with AAMC and ACGME competencies. Seven instructional “Remote Live Standardized Patient (RLSP)” cases were created using an iterative expert review process. The SP s are “interviewed” by the medicals students using internet based “chat” (e.g. Google chat/similar).
Results (168/300): Faculty (n=15) all strongly agreed/agreed that there was a need (score 4.40 +/- 0.51 on a 5 point Likert scale). Additionally, resident physicians reported feeling insufficiently prepared by their medical school training to deal with issues of overlapping pain and substance abuse. A second, iterative round of need analysis with different medical school faculty (n=9) and current medical students (n=20) was used to assess the draft curriculum plan and RLSP cases. In particular, medical students had a positive response to the concept and were generally receptive to the use of chat-based Standardized Patients.
A curriculum outline including 9 one hour online modules and 7 SP cases has been developed. To allow medical school faculty to integrate either the entire program or the most relevant portions into their current programs, the curriculum is cross-referenced with the APS and AAPM guidelines, and AAMC competencies. The program includes evaluative components for both quantitative and qualitative feedback from students and supervising faculty.
A summative evaluation with medical students will begin in 2010-2011.
Conclusion (93/100):: An evidence based curriculum has been created that includes necessary clinical skills competencies, medical knowledge, and the most up to date practice guidelines. The curriculum matches needs identified by faculty. Future research will asses if the curriculum improves the training and self-efficacy of medical students/future physicians. Although difficult to measure, it is hoped that better trained medical students will deal more effectively with the complicated issues that arise in treating pain, especially in terms of demonstrating appropriate awareness of the risks to the patient in terms of existing or potential substance use problems.
Clinical skills assessment exams using Standardized patients (SPs) are an established component of medical school education, including the current USLME Step 2 CS exam™. The authors have developed a novel method for conducting SP encounters using web-based chat technology (e.g. Google® chat). “Remote Live Standardized Patient” (RLSP) interviews are conducted entirely online. The interview requires active learner participation focused on clinical skills, and represents a unique solution to teaching specific skills and affecting behavior. We are not aware of other educators using chat for this purpose. We have been pilot testing chat-based OSCE-style exams1,2 since 2007. In 2009 we have begun using RLSPs to teach skills, as well as evaluate them. The instructional RLSP key components include an interactive SP actor, an EMR like interface, and a “Hats Off” mode, which allows the student learner to “ask a preceptor” or research information during the encounter. Each learner’s performance is evaluated by standardized measures and by the RLSP actor feedback. This interactive, responsive web environment allows the RLSP interview to simulate a broad spectrum of learner/patient encounters, from initial screening through diagnosis and treatment.
Advantages include 1) decreased SP training cost and time commitment, 2) more flexible SP scheduling and recruiting since all encounters occur online, 3) elimination of face-to-face constraints of verisimilitude errors and correlation of actor physical appearance compared to the “patient”, and 4) instant availability of chat conversation transcripts for review and learner feedback. Potential limitations include missing the “whole person” experience afforded by face-to-face encounters, including the ability to assess body language and demonstrate physical exam skills. Since face-to-face SP encounters also suffer from realism limitations (i.e. the actor does not typically have the “patient's” presenting symptoms), we feel that the advantages of an RLSP balance and actually outweigh the drawbacks.
Use of web-based chat or its equivalent may have significant appeal to the current generation of Internet-savvy medical students. The RLSP experience appears to be a viable alternative to the traditional face-to-face SP interview, allows cost savings, and prepares students for Step 2 CS-style exams.