A cluster-randomized educational intervention to reduce inappropriate prescription patterns for elderly patients in general practice - The Prescription Peer Academic Detailing (Rx-PAD) study [NCT00281450]
Background Age-related alterations in metabolism and excretion of medications increase the risk of adverse drug events in the elderly. Inappropriate polypharmacy and prescription practice entails increased burdens of impaired quality of life and drug related morbidity and mortality. The main objective of this trial is to evaluate effects of a tailored educational intervention towards general practitioners (GPs) aimed at supporting the implementation of a safer drug prescribing practice for elderly patients ≥ 70 years. Methods/design Approximately 80 peer continuing medical education (CME) groups (about 600 GPs) in southern Norway will be recruited to a cluster randomized trial. Participating groups will be randomized either to an intervention- or a control group. The control group will not receive any intervention towards prescription patterns in elderly, but will be the target of an educational intervention for prescription of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections. A multifaceted intervention has been tailored, where key components are educational outreach visits to the CME-groups, work-shops, audit and feedback. Prescription Peer Academic Detailers (Rx-PADs), who are trained GPs, will conduct the educational outreach visits. During these visits, a set of quality indicators (QIs), i.e. explicit recommendations for safer prescribing for elderly patients, will be presented and discussed. Software will be handed out for installation in participants' practice computers to enable extraction of pre-defined prescription data. These data will subsequently be linked to corresponding data from the Norwegian Prescription Database (NorPD). Individual feedback reports will be sent all participating GPs during and one year after the intervention. Feedback reports will include QI-scores on individual- and group levels, before and after the intervention. The main outcome of this trial is the change in proportions of inappropriate prescriptions (QIs) for elderly patients ≥ 70 years following intervention, compared to baseline levels. Discussion Improvement of prescription patterns in medical practice is a challenging task. Evidence suggests that a thorough evaluation of diagnostic indications for drug treatment in the elderly and/or a reduction of potentially inappropriate drugs may impose significant clinical benefits. Our hypothesis is that an educational intervention program will be effective in improving prescribing patterns for elderly patients in GP settings.