The Alberta Ambassador Program is a knowledge translation strategy that promotes the use of evidence to encourage and support best practice in the management of Pain. The Program is a collaboration of individuals and agencies that supports primary care practitioners in caring for patients with pain by developing knowledge and skills that reflect current research evidence.
The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Program at the Institute of Health Economics is actively engaged in the Alberta Ambassador Program and knowledge translation. This work encompasses a comprehensive search for research evidence, a systematic critique of the available evidence, and the synthesis of findings for use by policy makers and practitioners.
The Alberta Ambassador Program was conceived as a strategy for informing community clinicians about current research evidence on the management of chronic low back pain. It built on established relationships among researchers from the Health Technology Assessment Unit of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, senior clinicians from the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, and senior government officials from Alberta Health and Wellness.
The Program was based on a successful health technology assessment research transfer strategy developed in Sweden by the Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care (SBU). Starting in the mid-90s, SBU hired respected clinicians to act as liaisons between the institution, clinicians, decision makers, and to communicate the institution's research results.
From a modest start, the Program now involves 14 partners, including the Institute of Health Economics, government, Alberta Health Services, medical associations and colleges, universities, research funding bodies and institutes, and a patient advocacy group.
What are the activities of the Alberta Ambassador Program?
Phase I - completed in 2005, used clinical opinion leaders to present evidence to healthcare providers on various treatments for chronic pain.
The program was initially funded through a capacity building grant by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) and trialed in Alberta, Canada in 2004 - 2005. The Program was sponsored by the HTA program of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and Calgary Health Region.
- Develop and test an Ambassador Model knowledge transfer strategy; increase clinical knowledge about the best evidence in chronic pain management; and encourage clinicians to incorporate research evidence in the management of chronic pain.
- Identify other areas in the management of chronic pain where research evidence would be useful to Alberta health care providers.
- Strengthen a network of clinicians interested in chronic pain.
- Promote increased awareness of HTA.
- Eighteen primary care interventions for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain were identified by the HTA researchers in consultation with clinicians and opinion leaders.
- Eighteen Evidence in Brief summaries on primary care interventions for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain were produced using the best, most recently published research evidence. (View the methods to produce the summaries)
- Evidence in Brief summaries were presented to clinical practitioners through case-based workshops led by the Program's clinical ambassadors and researchers. (View the technical reference document used to deliver the workshops)
- Eleven case-based workshops were conducted in 8 out of 9 former Health Regions involving 130 participants. (View the technical reference document used to deliver the workshops)
- On an ongoing basis research evidence and recommendations for the majority of the summaries were updated quarterly up till August 2009. (View the evidence in brief summaries)
- Phase I was assessed by an independent evaluator (View the evaluation report prepared by Barrington Research Group Inc. in 2005)
The success of Phase I led to additional funding from Alberta Health and Wellness to conduct Phase II.
Phase II - began in 2006 and focused on developing evidence-based, Alberta-specific clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) for the management of two conditions - low back pain and headache.
- Collaborate with local champions to develop locally adapted CPGs for low back pain and headache to guide clinicians through treatment options available in their region;
- Support local networks in disseminating the CPGs to clinicians in Alberta;
- Update and maintain the Alberta Ambassador website as a resource for clinicians and patients;
- Design and implement an appropriate approach for evaluating the CPGs;
- Explore strategies for engaging the public in HTA research transfer on low back pain and headache management.
The Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Evidence-Informed Primary Care Management of Low Back Pain and for Primary Care Management of Headache in Adults were produced by two pan-provincial, multidisciplinary teams of Alberta professionals with expertise and interest in low back pain and headache disorders including: family physicians, specialist physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, registered nurse, psychologists, chiropractor, healthcare manager, knowledge transfer and communication specialist, and HTA researchers.
The Institute of Health Economics' HTA Program provided technical support. The Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and Alberta Health Services (formerly Calgary Health Region) provided in-kind contributions. (View a sample of the main activities along the process of developing the low back pain guideline: Quarterly Report to the Advisory Committee)
Accomplishments and ongoing activities:
Low back pain guideline
- The guideline for the Evidence-Informed Primary Care Management of Low Back Pain was adopted by the Alberta physician guideline group Toward Optimized Practice (TOP).
- The guideline is also included in the CMA Infobase and was one of the Top 10 most frequently viewed guidelines on the site. A summary of the guideline is available on the National Guidelines Clearinghouse Database.
- A dissemination and implementation strategy for the Evidence-Informed Primary Care Management of Low Back Pain Guideline was developed and will be used to implement the Guideline in Alberta. (View the strategy for dissemination)
- Research funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will be used to evaluate the knowledge translation strategy for the implementation of the guideline via a multidisciplinary interactive workshop. A series of workshops is planned that will involve multidisciplinary primary care clinicians participating in the Alberta Primary Care Networks.
- The process for developing the guideline for the Evidence-Informed Primary Care Management of Low Back Pain was evaluated by Sumera Management Consulting. The purpose of the evaluation was to identify successful strategies and major challenges associated with the process, benchmark it against the ADAPTE framework, and identify improvements that could be made to future iterations of the guideline development process. (View the evaluation report)
- The guideline for management of adults with non-specific, non-malignant low back pain has been updated to incorporate new research findings. The 2nd edition was posted on the TOP website on 28 November 2011.
- An inventory list of resources for clinicians and patients is available by clicking here.
- The low back pain guideline is updated every two years.
The next activity of the Program involved development of a guideline for primary care management of headache in adults.
- A document (Project Charter) that provides an overview of the parameters within which IHE is engaged in activities as part of the development of the headache guideline was created in October 2009.
- The Guideline for Primary Care Management of Headache in Adults was adopted by the Alberta physician guideline group Toward Optimized Practice (TOP) and was published on the TOP website in July 2012.
- The guideline is also included in the CMA Infobase and was one of the Top 10 most frequently viewed guidelines on the site.
- A dissemination and implementation strategy for the Guideline for Primary Care Management of Headache in Adults was developed and will be used to implement the Guideline in Alberta. (Forthcoming)
- An inventory list of resources for clinicians and patients is avalable by clicking here.
- The headache guideline is updated every two years.
The Program will move beyond its initial focus on pain management to engage practitioners and policy makers in knowledge translation activities for other healthcare conditions where advances in research evidence could improve the health of Albertans.
This page was last updated on June 17, 2013.