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Inspiring Change in HCP Behavior Through Educational Interaction

Changes to patient-centric care require first and foremost the participation of healthcare professionals (HCPs), who have a huge impact on quality health practices.

HCP behaviors are meant to drive patient outcomes and promote new and effective approaches to health care; these include prescribing behaviors, advocating for vaccination uptake, and reducing medical errors. To support the advancement of health care, interactions that increase HCP awareness are critical. Education is key to behavior change interaction, as is collaboration with different health provider segments and changes at the organizational level.

What Makes HCPs Hesitant to Adopt Certain Behaviors?
A fast-paced and rapidly changing pharma environment can cause hesitancy among HCPs. Part of the provider’s reluctance to adopt new drugs or therapies into their practice is attributed to HCP commitment to preventing medical errors. A gap in HCP knowledge of patient safety practices exposes opportunities to intervene and adjust behaviors.

Importantly, an HCP’s awareness is central to maintaining their patients’ safety and adherence to a treatment program; however, a study published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care exposed inconsistencies with providers’ knowledge on safety practices. In addition, the study revealed a general uncertainty toward disclosing medical complications associated with prescribing practices, which may affect a provider’s prescribing behavior or inspire little change in the way they practice health care.

How Can Pharma Change HCP Behaviors?
Behavior change interactions ultimately help in advancing health care and bettering patient outcomes. Changes to behavior should ultimately empower physicians to prescribe appropriate treatment on the basis of clinical information that is the most current available and that follows therapeutic guidelines advocating adherence.

The gap between what is understood and what is being practiced can be bridged by utilizing evidence-based information. This bridge is known as “knowledge translation,” and describes a process of turning knowledge into action by integrating and applying scientific evidence; the eventual dissemination and exchange of this information also supports behavioral changes.

How Can Education of HCPs Generate Positive Change?
Education, via knowledge translation, is the primary interaction in HCP behavior change at the individual-physician level. In fact, it has improved prescribing practices, established better compliance guidelines, and even helped detect specific conditions more efficiently. These clinical activities all effect positive change and have been reported to reduce adverse events in patients.

Interactive methods are a common tool that involves HCPs in developing an educational plan to drive change. Evidence-based information can also be disseminated through computer-based learning modules, academic detailing (in which pharma key opinion leaders share and discuss this information with other HCPs), structured seminars or meetings, and even simple print collateral.

Less-conventional approaches include reminder systems, whether computer based or analog; these have been effective for driving change through clinical encounters of a specific patient population, condition, or treatment. Another trend in knowledge dissemination is a so-called “ethnodrama,” an interactive theatrical performance used to support HCP education and behavior change. A good example of an ethnodrama centered on the subject of lymphedema led nearly 75% of the HCPs in attendance to anticipate making changes to their screening behavior.

How Can Collaborating HCPs Benefit From Organizational Change?
Change at an organizational level necessarily involves the participation of different types of providers, and requires integrating the perspectives of all the people involved in the delivery of care. Stakeholders of an organization who have a role in inspiring institution-wide change should design appropriate interactions that target the different provider segments, including nurses, surgeons, pharmacists, pediatricians, therapists, etc.

Collaboration often necessitates restructuring an organization that intersects different types of providers in order to implement multidisciplinary approaches to change. Providers involved in large-scale institutions should be encouraged to share knowledge and ensure access to valuable resources that foster best-care practices.

Change can be inspired on a national scale, and implementing national adherence guidelines can drive more-natural behavior changes, as physicians will instinctively follow the recommendations certain organizations put forth. Entities such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US regularly publish and update guidelines on various treatment and prescribing practices.

What Is Needed to Design an Effective Behavior Interaction?
To change behavior on any level, a simple structure for designing knowledge translation and behavior change interactions is recommended. Applicable constructs to behavior change should be motivational, actionable, or organizational. Understanding current HCP behaviors is necessary to develop effective intervention activities; these behaviors can be better understood through focus group discussion, interviews, surveys, literature reviews, or simple observation.

Intervention activities should be targeted and offer quantitative metrics. The capability to measure behavior change outcomes and effectiveness should be part of the intervention design. Thoughtfully designed interventions will ultimately strengthen and sustain long-term behavior change in HCPs for effecting positive outcomes.