ImproveCareNow Research


Brain Science, Stress and IBD

When I was diagnosed with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease 7 years ago, I wanted a simple and straightforward “cure all” treatment. To my dismay, I learned that relying on one silver bullet drug, would not suffice. Controlling this disease was like trying to tame a wild animal and would require balancing many factors. I became attuned to how psychological stress and poor diet negatively affected my symptoms. With a careful combination of transient targeted steroids, immunomodulatory drugs, vigorous exercise, and lifestyle changes, I regained my ability to thrive. I returned to my former state of athleticism, regularly tackling the intense and unforgiving northern California waves with my surfboard.Andrew and his surfboard getting ready to tackle the northern California waves

 

I soon entered the University of California, Santa Cruz’s neuroscience and psychology programs. While I was intensely focused on my academics and extracurriculars, the foundational nature of the human brain became seemingly more important. Comprised of approximately eighty billion neurons or brain cells, the vast intricacy of this three pound organ is extraordinary: The relationships or “connections” between these neurons –– called synapses –– outnumber the stars in our home galaxy. These small spaces are in actuality busy microcosms of information transfer between neurons. Minute chemical messengers called neurotransmitters serve as the communicational media. It is widely believed that the way in which brain cells are connected and their chemistry determines our psychological state.

 

An image of a neuron

 

I took note: under times of intense pressure or stress my physical symptoms manifested. Was this just a mere coincidence? Or was there really something going on? With a neuroscientific lens, I investigated.

 

I found that the connection between the brain and body and its interactions in disease are well-recognized by the scientific community.1 Modern day stress is seemingly connected to our most primal of reactions – activating a “fight or flight” response – that would be more useful to us in prehistoric times in our interactions with predation. A stress hormone called Cortisol serves to direct our body’s resources (in the form of glucose) away from non-vital functions like digestion and immune activity. For this reason, scientists believe that prolonged stress plays a pivotal part in a myriad of autoimmune conditions.

 

The extent to which psychological states influence the disease progression of IBD is still somewhat unclear. Numerous studies and review articles, however, suggest that these psychological states play a role in both direct disease progression and how patients deal and cope with their disease. 2, 3, 4, 5

 

Reducing stress is just one of many changes that help me live with Crohn’s Disease. Further, just as important is staying informed and imaginative. This blog and the entire ImproveCareNow community represent a beautiful medium for these concepts to flourish. Thank you for your part in this community.

 

References:




    1. Sternberg E, Gold P. The Mind-Body Interaction in Disease. Scientific American Special Edition. 2002:82-9.




    1. Mawdsley JE, Rampton DS. Psychological stress in IBD: new insights into pathogenic and therapeutic implications. Gut. 2005;54(10):1481-91.




    1. Mikocka-Walus AA, Gordon AL, Stewart BJ, Andrews JM. A magic pill? A qualitative analysis of patients' views on the role of antidepressant therapy in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). BMC Gastroenterol. 2012;12:93.




    1. Peters S, Grunwald N, Remmele P, et al. Chronic psychosocial stress increases the risk for inflammation-related colon carcinogenesis in male mice. Stress. 2012;15(4):403-15.




    1. Sajadinejad MS, Asgari K, Molavi H, et al. Psychological issues in inflammatory bowel disease: an overview. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2012;2012:106502.

 


Hi, I’m Steve and I am a Hoosier.

Steve Steiner is a pediatric gastroenterologist, hoosier and cochair of the ICN Research Committee

For those of you unfamiliar with the term 'Hoosier', it is used to describe a native of Indiana. No one really knows who came up with it, but I do share the distinction with John Dillinger, James Dean, John Mellencamp, Michael Jackson, and David Letterman. My mother is a nurse, but there was never a doctor in our family until I graduated from med school.


ImproveCareNow Comparative Effectiveness Research study is published in Pediatrics and highlighted by AGA

Dr. Richard Colletti, Executive Network Director for ImproveCareNow, announced earlier this month that an innovative study by ImproveCareNow, using the ImproveCareNow registry database ("ICN2"), has been published in Pediatrics. In addition, the article is being highlighted by the American Gastroenterological Society (AGA). Below are the abstract and the AGA highlights. Congratulations to all of the ImproveCareNow community members, including patients, parents, clinicians, researchers and all committed improvers, who made this possible.


Enteral Therapy as a treatment for Crohn's disease


[Editor's note: This article was originally published in CIRCLE May-June 2013]


Enteral therapy refers to providing nutrition as a formula rather than by eating a regular diet. Enteral therapy has been shown to be effective in inducing, and perhaps maintaining, remission for pediatric patients with Crohn's disease. Enteral therapy does not have the side effects seen with drug treatment, and can improve growth, unlike corticosteroids, which have many known side effects. Although used very little in the United States, enteral therapy is commonly used abroad, including many European countries and Japan.


Over the years, several methods of administering enteral therapy have been evaluated, leading to variation in treatment. In 2012, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) formed the Enteral Nutrition Working Group to review the use of enteral nutrition therapy in pediatric Crohn's disease, which summarized previous research and offered recommendations for physicians.


Drinking FormulaHistorically, enteral therapy was given through a feeding tube, and this is still done at many centers. However, drinking the formula is also an effective option. Studies have used both specialized nutrition formulas (in which the protein has been broken down to into smaller pieces) and non-prescription over-the-counter formulas (in which protein is not broken down). Both approaches appear to be equally effective, an important finding since over-the-counter formulas taste better and are less expensive.


The majority of the research has shown that enteral therapy is effective when taken as the sole source of nutrition (that means the patient can't eat any food), and this approach was recommended by the NASPGHAN Enteral Nutrition Working Group. However, recently a study published by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia showed that enteral therapy protocol is still effective when a small amount of food (less than 20% of the calories) is taken at the same time.


The way enteral therapy works is unclear. Theories include that it may help to provide the body with important nutrients and better overall nutrition, eliminate an unknown dietary substance that causes an immune response, or alter the bacteria found in the intestines.


A perceived barrier to enteral therapy is that the treatment may be demanding for physicians, families, and patients. For example it may be difficult to start, expensive, create a need for a feeding tube, or be displeasing to patients. Nationwide Children's Hospital is developing and testing a simple enteral therapy protocol which could be started very quickly and could be used at other GI centers. They plan to work with families and patients to reduce the perceived barriers via education on cost issues and payment options, and by developing a mentoring program. If successful, the protocol could significantly decrease the number of newly diagnosed patients with Crohn's disease who are initially treated with corticosteroids. Stay tuned.


Jen Smith, MS, RD, LD, LMT, Clinical Dietitian
Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio




Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…


The announcement from Daniel McLinden that the ICN Exchange was back up.

 

Recently, the ICN Exchange needed to undergo maintenance unexpectedly for two days. Some people in the ImproveCareNow Network probably noticed it more than others. I know that as someone who has come to rely on it to keep up with what centers are working on and looking at, I was keenly aware of its absence.  So you can imagine how thrilling it was when it came back online!

 

Now that the Exchange is back up and running (and better than ever - with plans and resources in place to prevent such outages in the future!) it occurs to me that even a quick glance at the Exchange clearly shows the richness, diversity, vibrancy—and the multifaceted dynamics of our community.

 

When I glanced at the Exchange today this is what I saw:

 

Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters' DIGMA model demo video from the Spring 2014 Learning SessionImproveCareNow centers, like Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, jumping in and collaborating with parents, patients, and other centers to make sure that we are all learning together!
Call for clinicians to sign up for a focus group to dicuss what has worked and what hasn't worked when trying to get patients and families involved in QI work at ImproveCareNow centers.

 

Opportunities that highlight how much we really, really want and need to learn from each other so we can collaborate even better!

 

The first ever announcement for a ImproveCareNow Dietician webinar Multidisciplinary partners, like the RD group, are staying connected with each other and getting organized so they can The new online 90 day goals tracker for ImproveCareNow centers to track and monitor their Improvement project goals and progress quarterlytake on projects that will build their visibility and leadership in ImproveCareNow.

 

ImproveCareNow QI teams are becoming even more accountable and transparent in their day-to-day QI work.

 

The Parent Working Group of ImproveCareNow is now setting and working on 90 Day Goals and in the spirit of transparency is sharing them with the whole NetworkParent Partners are setting their 90 day goals, tracking their progress and keeping the Network informed!The Patient Advisory Council request to ImproveCareNow participants to co-produce an Ostomy Toolkit for patients with permenant or temporary ostomies.

 

And finally, amazing patients around the country are teaching us more and more every day.


 

And that is just a quick glance! So thank you to everyone who has been a part of helping us build this vibrant community. I, for one, can’t wait to see where the community goes next!



The ICN Exchange is an internal knowledge-sharing platform that the ImproveCareNow Network uses to communicate, collaborate and innovate across the miles. Clinicians, Researchers, Patients, Families and Improvers are able to log into the ICN Exchange and share seamlessly and steal shamelessly!  The ICN Exchange has enabled ImproveCareNow to extend our “all teach, all learn” collaborative approach to medicine far beyond our monthly webinars and twice-annual Learning Session. It allows us to identify ideas and best practices in pediatric IBD care and introduce them into the care delivery process much faster—improving care for our patients now.


Parents as partners in care

One of the joys of working with the ImproveCareNow Network is seeing the results of co-production introduced more broadly to a learning community. At the same time, communicating what this is all about can be tricky – the idea that patients and clinicians can actually be partners (in health, care, improvement, and research) - is such a paradigm shift.  In fomenting this culture change, we have come to a deep appreciation of story-telling, art, and other creative expression as a powerful way of communicating beyond the hard data. That's why it's so breathtaking when we see this come along:


https://twitter.com/michaelseid11/status/448458248627027969

Justin, who made this video, is a parent in the ImproveCareNow network.  Collaborating with other parents and with some (minor) input from ImproveCareNow staff, he distills, in less than 90 seconds, this movement to its essence so much better than my feeble words could do.


Drum Roll Please...

In only a couple of days, there will be a flurry of texting between Sami and I, sending pictures of packing and potential Learning Session outfits back and forth. Yesterday I sent Sami a few pictures of a sample outfit, to which she instantly texted back, “I like it!! It looks professional and cute!” (Note: said outfit was, indeed, packed immediately)

 

Last night I was pouring over an email with the Learning Session agenda, clicking on the various hyperlinks for teasers about the plethora of exciting things to come. One link sent me to pictures posted on the ICN Exchange of various ImproveCareNow teams; I chuckled at the Boston Children’s Hospital team’s faces photo-shopped onto duck statues (a la Make Way for Ducklings), the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team’s matching t-shirts, the MassGeneral Hospital for Children team’s “We love ICN” sign (complete with a full GI tract doodle), and – finally – the ICN Exchange “Team Oscar Selfie” (a gutsier version of Ellen’s now infamous Oscar celebrity selfie).

 

Nothing like previewing pictures of the big-hearted, gutsy-humored, determined-with-all-their-might-to-change-chronic-illness-care care center teams to get me excited about the Spring Learning Session!

 

Spring 2014 ImproveCareNow Learning Session

 

Sami and I have tried (and, notably, failed) at accurately articulating the pure excitement, joy, motivation, and positive energy that’s simply contagious at the Learning Session. Here in text, it sounds cheesy and like ImproveCareNow is prodding us to write down such ooey-gooey sentiments. But, let me reassure you on behalf of Sami and myself, our ooey-gooey praise is exceedingly well-deserved and comes directly from our hearts (read: guts).

 

In addition to the undeniable culture of optimism and innovative thinking, there are always particular sessions we just cannot wait for. Following are the things we look forward to most at the Spring Learning Session:





    • PAC Reunion: The Learning Session is the one time when the PAC Leadership is able to brainstorm in-person (and also eat lots, and lots of candy!). We look forward to seeing each other face to face, and are always astonished by the amount of important work we get done in a couple of days. This Learning Session will be the first where our full PAC Leadership will be in attendance (PAC co-chairs - Jennie & Sami, and Patient Scholars - Katherine & Tyler) – we just can’t wait!!

 


    • QI Fundamentals: Sami and I stumbled upon this last year as we both arrived early, and were quickly enthralled with the phenomenal centers who are our newest family members in the network. This is a wonderful opportunity if you’re in need of some inspiration (note: by the end of the weekend, you’ll be bursting with inspiration!) or a Quality Improvement refresher, and is a fantastic way to meet upcoming superstars in the network.

 


    • Opening Reception: Here, there, and everywhere – the reception is filled with amazing people and is an awesome chance to network, socialize, and get the 411 on the network’s progress and innovations with the variety of poster presentations. Also, keep an eye out for some Patient Advisory Council members who will be reprising their roles interviewing reception attendees!

 


    • The Learning Health System Today and Tomorrow: The opening never fails to deliver in motivating every cell of every attendee, and – who are we kidding – we always love seeing Dr. Margolis and Dr. Colletti (and, if we’re lucky, they’ll coordinate their outfits!).

 


    • Lunch: Food, food, more food, and lots of networking! We always fill up with some nourishment and get the chance to meet new centers, parents, and the clinicians at various centers that we are humbled to call friends.

 


    • The Learning Health System, The Months Ahead: The closing is reliably the time when you will need a stash of tissues compliments of the remarkable speeches from parents and patients. After the excitement of the weekend and the endless research ideas and connections you’ve developed, the closing is a perfect opportunity to digest (yes, pun intended) the entire experience and head home with genuine motivation that you won’t soon forget.



We can’t wait for the collaboration, the innovation, the passion, the insight, and to continue to watch children and their families living with IBD receive better, and better holistic healthcare.

 

So pack your bags (or join us on Twitter and follow the Learning Session hashtag #ICNLS) and get excited – the Spring Learning Session is just around the corner!

 

Jennie + Sami


Transitioning at Children's Mercy Hospital

When I was little, I had a lilac-purple colored bicycle. There were shiny streamers at the ends of the white handlebars, which would often catch the wind as I rode through a field near our house, my parents cheering and running behind me holding tight to the lip of the seat. Having gotten used to the stable comfort of riding my tricycle around our quiet suburban cul-de-sac, I remember feeling both terrified and thrilled at the expanse of the field and my ‘big girl’ two-wheeler. Learning to ride my bike – like most things in life – was a skill that required a lot of technical and emotional support from others, and a belief that I could do it.

 

A few months before I graduated high school at 17, I went to the hospital with my Mom for the so-called “transition appointment.” We had been sheltered and insulated in the pediatric world, full of pastel-colored murals, teddy bears, and bandages that were cut into heart shapes. The adult medical world was cryptic and distant – a new building, new doctors, new nurses, new everything. While everyone was perfectly polite, the transition appointment consisted of being told which adult doctor I was going to see and when/where I had to show up; there were no choices, no decisions, no questions. And there was no road-map for how to get from point A (pediatric care) to point B (adult care).

 

There are two important concepts that often get conflated: transition is the careful, premeditated, and inclusive process of educating and empowering an individual to be responsible for one’s health, while transfer is the physical change of moving to a new medical facility (e.g., pediatric to adult hospital). Transition is the meaningful process of gaining and growing skills like medical literacy, advocacy, adherence strategies, and so on. It requires a team of people (patient, parent, pediatric and adult doctors, nurses, etc.) working together to empower the patient. It’s the difference between learning to ride that little purple bike in a big field with lots of support versus just being given the bike with no guidance about how to use it.

 

According to Dr. Michele Maddux, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, who helped develop their transition program, Mercy’s efforts had previously involved transferring medical records and, “finding an adult provider, with significantly less focus on equipping adolescent patients with the tools and skills needed to successfully manage their health care needs.” Seeing this gap, Dr. Maddux and a dedicated transition task-force set out to create a holistic transition program that managed the clinical issues while taking lifestyle matters and family perspectives into account. They started by interviewing each of the pediatric gastroenterologists (GIs) on service to ensure physician engagement in the project and to capture their unique perspectives. They also created a GI roundtable and invited pediatric and adult GIs to have transparent conversations about transition. This resulted in a provider database and helped to dispel some of the myths that pediatric and adult GIs had about each other. The success of the roundtable and the transition task-force’s efforts culminated in the hiring of a transition coordinator and the development of a transition readiness screener for patients as well as educational materials for patients and families undergoing transition. The educational materials were vetted by Mercy’s general parent and teen advisory boards (i.e., not IBD specific) and by parents of children living with IBD.

 

Cue Jamie Hicks – a perfect fit into the role given her nursing background and a busy mom of three, including 10-year-old Colson who lives with Crohn’s. Prior to reviewing the transition materials, Jamie said, “[i]t simply wasn’t on my radar… I think of him growing up and how the disease will impact his future. But I never linked that to him taking over my ‘job’ as the manager of his health care.” Jamie praised the educational materials as “fantastic”, underscoring the importance of a defined direction and plan over guessing and uncertainty. Jamie’s main contributions were adjusting the material’s language, which she believes can have a large impact on how the information is received and understood by kids and families. According to Dr. Maddux, “Jamie brought a much needed patient/family voice to our materials that gave us a unique opportunity to craft our educational materials to meet the needs of families.”

 

Both Dr. Maddux and Jamie reiterate the vital importance of creating space for parents in research projects. Dr. Maddux pointed to the language and format changes as key edits that would have gone unaddressed without parent and patient engagement. Jamie addressed the critical role parents play as the people who most intimately understand their children beyond the clinic by helping to appropriately tailor educational materials and provide ‘behind the scenes’ information about children's motivations and worries. Similarly, they are both passionate about transition being relationship-based and starting as early as possible so the changes in medical responsibility are empowering and fitting for each child and familial situation.

 

We may not have a cure for IBD, but thanks to the insight and persistence of Dr. Maddux’s team and parents like Jamie, it is possible to implement a comprehensive, team-based transition program that prepares young patients with IBD to manage their own care. We can give our patients the encouragement, support, and information they need to ‘ride their bikes’ with strength and confidence.

 

After dozens of tries back in that field on my purple bicycle, I finally pushed off the ground, my feet finding the pedals and my eyes trained on the horizon, newly sturdy and sure of myself, and off I went pedaling across the field as my parents clapped and whistled. It hadn’t been easy, but I did it.

 

And together, we can make sure all of our kids can do it too.

 


PCORI gives two major awards to advance ImproveCareNow

I’m delighted to announce that on Tuesday December 17 the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) gave two major awards that will enable us to advance our work in ImproveCareNow.

One award is for $1,000,000 over 18 months for ImproveCareNow to create a Patient Powered Research Network (PPRN) to develop tools to boost patient and family engagement and implement patient reported outcomes.  The Principal Investigators are Peter Margolis, MD, PhD and Michael Seid, PhD at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Richard Colletti, MD, at the University of Vermont.

The second award is for $7,000,000 over 18 months to develop a Clinical Data Research Network (CDRN) called the National Pediatric Learning Health System, initially consisting of 8 major children’s hospitals (all participating in ImproveCareNow) plus 3 improvement networks, including ImproveCareNow.  The Principal Investigators are Christopher Forrest, MD, PhD at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Peter Margolis, MD, PhD.

These awards are the results of the outstanding work of everyone participating in the ImproveCareNow Network, and in particular those who helped to prepare the extensive proposals for these awards.

Congratulations!  This is a great opportunity for us to continue our innovation, discovery and improvement!

Richard B. Colletti, MD

Network Director, ImproveCareNow


ImproveCareNow leading research

Peter MargolisThe day to day work of changing care delivery systems - to make them more reliable and effective - is important but it's nice to learn from time to time that there's an impact at multiple levels of the health care system.

 

One of the major federal sponsors of health services research is the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Rick Kronick, PhD was recently appointed the agency's new director.  Dr. Kronick has experience as a researcher, as a leader in Massachusetts and in Washington, DC. His first day on the job was two weeks ago and he mentioned ImproveCareNow in his opening remarks to the agency.

 

A program officer at AHRQ emailed me to share this news. Dr. Kronick's theme was achieving an impact through health services research. She paraphrased Dr. Kronick as saying that all research is viewed with a skeptical eye in tight economic times so it is important to be able to show measurable progress towards the goal of an impact on outcomes. Dr. Kronick cited ImproveCareNow as a leading of example of the kind of research that AHRQ should be sponsoring because of the very significant impact that we have had (in part through the support of the Enhanced Registries project).

 

By continuing to stay focused on improving outcomes, ImproveCareNow is demonstrating that when we work together the health care system can change. Achieving an impact at a larger level isn't the reason why we're doing this. At the same time, it's important for policy makers and others to know that there's hope for accelerating improvement and to know about models like ours that work. Hopefully, this will make those who support our work, more inclined to continue to do so.


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