An evaluation of educational outreach to improve evidence-based prescribing in Medicaid: A cautionary tale

Alan J. Zillich, Ronald T. Ackermann, Timothy E. Stump, Roberta J. Ambuehl, Steven M. Downs, Ann M. Holmes, Barry Katz, Thomas S. Inui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Rationale, aims and objectives: Evidence suggests that educational outreach ('academic detailing') improves evidence-based prescribing. We evaluated the impact of an academic detailing programme intended to increase new statin prescriptions. Methods: In a 2 × 2 factorial design we evaluated the effect of an academic detailing programme with/without telephonic care management for patients. Eligible patients were continuously enrolled Medicaid members at high risk for cardiovascular disease utilization who were not receiving statin medication in the 18 months prior to the intervention. All primary care prescribers assigned to these patients were randomized by clinic to academic detailing. Two trained nurses provided the detailing to prescribers, including specific discussion about the use of statins in this high-risk patient population. Nurses left the prescribers with a summary of clinical practice guidelines, a one-page detailing sheet and a list of patients under the care of the prescriber who were candidates for statins. The primary outcome was the incidence of a new statin prescription claim during the 6-month intervention period and the subsequent 6 months. Logistic regression models were used to estimate main effects of the interventions and to adjust for potential confounding variables in the study. Results: Forty-eight clinics were randomized, effectively randomizing a total of 284 patients and 128 prescribers. Among the 284 patients, 46 (16%) received a new statin claim during the evaluation period. Controlling for significant bivariate associations, the academic detailing intervention had no significant effect on new statin prescriptions compared with the control group (odds ratio = 0.8, 95% confidence interval: 0.4-1.6, P = 0.5). Conclusion: Among this Medicaid population at high risk for cardiovascular events, an academic detailing programme to increase statin prescriptions was not effective. To assist others to learn from our failed effort, we identify and discuss critical elements in the design and implementation of the programme that could account for these results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)854-860
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Academic detailing
  • Educational outreach
  • Medication use
  • Prescribing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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