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Open Access Study protocol

A cluster randomized trial to assess the impact of opinion leader endorsed evidence summaries on improving quality of prescribing for patients with chronic cardiovascular disease: rationale and design [ISRCTN26365328]

Sumit R Majumdar*, Finlay A McAlister and Ross T Tsuyuki

Author Affiliations

Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB and the Institute of Health Economics, Edmonton AB, Canada

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2005, 5:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-17

Published: 27 June 2005

Abstract

Background

Although much has been written about the influence of local opinion leaders on clinical practice, there have been few controlled studies of their effect, and almost none have attempted to change prescribing in the community for chronic conditions such as heart failure (HF) or ischemic heart disease (IHD). These two conditions are common and there is very good evidence about how to best prevent morbidity and mortality – and good evidence that quality of care is, in general, suboptimal. Practice audits have demonstrated that about one-half of eligible HF patients are prescribed ACE inhibitors (with fewer still reaching appropriate target doses) and less than one-third of patients with established IHD are prescribed statins (with many fewer reaching recommended cholesterol targets). It is apparent that interventions to improve quality of prescribing are urgently needed. We hypothesized that an intervention that consisted of patient-specific one-page evidence summaries, generated and then endorsed by local opinion leaders, would be able to change prescribing practices of community-based primary care physicians.

Methods (study design)

A pragmatic single-centre cluster randomized controlled trial comparing an opinion leader-based intervention to usual care for patients with HF or IHD. Randomization will be clustered at the level of the primary care physician; as the design effect is anticipated to be negligible, the unit of analysis will be the patient. Patients with HF or IHD (not receiving ACE inhibitors or statins, respectively) will be recruited from community pharmacies and allocated to intervention or usual care based on the randomization status of their primary care physician. The primary outcome is improvement in prescription of proven efficacious therapies for HF (ACE inhibitors) or IHD (statins) within 6 months of the intervention.

Conclusion

If the methods used in this intervention are found to improve prescribing practices, similar interventions could be designed for other chronic conditions dealt with in the outpatient setting.