Open Access Research article

The Alberta Ambassador Program: delivering Health Technology Assessment results to rural practitioners

Saifudin Rashiq1*, Pamela Barton2, Christa Harstall3, Donald Schopflocher4, Paul Taenzer5 and the Alberta Ambassador Program Team

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pain Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB, Canada

2 Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Calgary, Calgary AB, Canada

3 Health Technology Assessment Unit, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Edmonton AB, Canada

4 Health Surveillance, Alberta Health and Wellness, Edmonton AB, Canada

5 Calgary Chronic Pain Centre, Calgary Health Region, Calgary AB, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:21  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-21

Published: 31 March 2006

Abstract

Background

The purpose of Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is to make the best possible summary of the evidence regarding specific health interventions in order to influence health care and policy decisions. The need for decision makers to find relevant HTA data when it is needed is a barrier to its usefulness. These barriers are highest in rural areas and amongst isolated practitioners.

Methods

A multidisciplinary team developed an interactive case-based instructional strategy on the topic of chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) management using clinical evidence derived by HTA. The evidence for each of 18 CNCP interventions was distilled into single-sheet summaries. Clinicians and HTA specialists ('Ambassadors') conducted 11 two-hour interactive sessions on CNCP in eight of Alberta's nine health regions. Pre- and post-session evaluations were conducted.

Results

The sessions were attended by 130 individuals representing 14 health and administrative disciplines. The ambassador model was well received. The use of content experts as ambassadors was highly rated. The educational strategy was judged to be effective. Awareness of the best evidence in CNCP management was increased. Although some participants reported practice changes as a result of the workshops, the program was not designed to measure changes in patient outcome.

Conclusion

The ambassador program was successful in increasing awareness of the best evidence in CNCP management, and positively influenced treatment decisions. Its teaching methods were felt to be unique and innovative by participants. Its methods could be applied to other clinical content areas in order to increase the uptake of the results of HTA.