Solutions for Kids in Pain (SKIP) was launched in the spring of last year, with the goal of improving the management of pain in children by bringing what researchers have learned about pediatric pain to “knowledge users” who need it most: health professionals, policymakers, patients, parents, and caregivers (see RELIEF related interviews here). To achieve that goal, SKIP – known as a knowledge mobilization network – relies on more than 100 partners to engage knowledge users in different ways. Through innovative initiatives, SKIP is already changing the landscape of pediatric pain management, even though it’s celebrating only its very first birthday.
“The practice of knowledge mobilization – putting research into practice – really is more of an art than a science,” said Christine Chambers, SKIP’s scientific director, and a clinical pediatric pain researcher at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. “Our success has been mostly built on relationships, working in collaboration with many different people, partners, and stakeholders toward a common goal. It’s been exciting to see the momentum that has been built – and we already have many examples that show the impact SKIP is having when it comes to improving pain management for children.”
Two of those examples include a new “Ask Me Anything” program and an effort to improve virtual care.
“Ask Me Anything” enables open conversations with healthcare providers
In January 2018, SKIP forged a partnership with The Rounds, a secure collaboration network for healthcare professionals that offers a clinical discussion forum and expert-led events for its members, after the two organizations connected on the LinkedIn platform. At the time, The Rounds was in start-up mode, and given SKIP’s mission, a partnership could both help disseminate important information and raise The Rounds’ visibility in the healthcare space. Two years later, the partnership has led to a series of expert-led programs and clinical discussions on pediatric pain management including an “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” forum.
“With this partnership, we were really interesting in finding ways to reach healthcare providers who may not directly work in the area of pediatric pain but are interested in learning more about how to manage pain when it does show up in their younger patients,” said Kathryn Birnie, SKIP Assistant Scientific Director and a pediatric pain psychologist and researcher at the University of Calgary, Canada. “The nice thing about the AMA approach is that it leaves a lot of space for conversations between healthcare providers and pediatric pain experts.”
Alexandra Erb, head of strategic partnerships at The Rounds, agreed. She said providing such an open discussion forum permits physicians to cut through the noise and find relevant, timely information they can apply in their practices. She added that the two previous SKIP AMA events have been among the most effective and far-reaching content programs The Rounds has ever offered, amassing thousands of impressions and engagements across its community of members.
“Through our partnership with SKIP, pediatric pain management content has reached over 3,000 healthcare professionals through community and educational events – The Rounds has also seen a spike in membership,” she said. “Moving forward, our goal is to provide a steady stream of these educational activities in order to grow membership, engagement, and achieve results around our shared mission of improving care.”
Meghan McMurtry, a psychologist at the University of Guelph, Canada, whose research focuses on pediatric pain as well as medical procedure-related fear, recently hosted one of the AMA events with pharmacist Anna Taddio, University of Toronto, Canada, on the topic of vaccinations and pain. She said the platform was not only a great way to speak directly to healthcare professionals but also to get ideas for future research projects.
“It’s always a neat opportunity to interact with frontline healthcare professionals and hear about what they are seeing in the clinic,” she said. “It not only allows us to tell them more about the work that we are doing but, in hearing their questions, we can get a better idea of what kind of research projects we should tackle in the future. Hearing some of the questions we received really reinforced some ideas I had about next steps for our work.”
For example, McMurtry said the experience showed that healthcare providers may have difficulty differentiating between and then managing low levels and high levels of needle fear in children.
“We saw that there’s a continued need to understand these differences,” she said.
McMurtry also added that she found the AMA format very accessible, making it easy to start positive, fruitful conversations with doctors around the country.
“It can sometimes be intimidating to ask a question,” she said. “This kind of set-up made it easier for people and, for me, as the person being asked the questions, it wasn’t onerous at all. It was fun to do and helped us engage with people we may not have reached otherwise.”
A speedy shift to virtual care puts on a premium on information
Another partnership SKIP formed recently was with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CHFI), a not-for-profit organization funded by Health Canada working to accelerate healthcare improvements across the country. The two are now working on a project to review best practices for virtual care that can most effectively support youth with chronic pain and their families – a timely undertaking given that the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated the growth of telehealth (see RELIEF related article here).
“COVID-19 has been a really big catalyst for virtual care,” said Birnie. “But, when it comes to pediatric pain management, where you may need a multi-disciplinary team to diagnose and treat the issue, we still don’t know the best practices for how to use virtual services to manage all the aspects of care to improve functioning and self-management.”
Erin Aubrey, Knowledge Broker and Strategic Partnerships Lead for SKIP at IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Canada, said the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, one of SKIP’s regional hubs, recently presented a webinar for Children’s Healthcare Canada about virtual pediatric pain care. The webinar was geared toward healthcare professionals, from service providers to policymakers, to demonstrate how the SickKids Chronic Pain Clinic has been managing the transition. But while the Hospital for Sick Kids is a leader in pediatric pain management, what works for them may not work for all hospitals or pain management clinics, or for patients who may not live close to one of these specialty facilities. Aubrey said there is a direct need for evidence-based information about where, when, and how to use virtual care most effectively, which could enhance healthcare providers’ abilities to provide the highest quality care outside the four walls of the hospital.
“We need to collect information about the patients and their families and understand what kind of virtual care can best support them, especially as they may no longer have access to massage, physical therapy, or other in-person therapies they may have relied on in the past,” Aubrey said. “The virtual care call is all about making sure that all the voices are at the table, especially those with lived experience with chronic pain, to ensure the evidence-based practices are appropriate for the entire healthcare community. This will not only help kids now, during the pandemic, but also after, if they need to, or choose to continue virtual care.”
SKIP and CFHI are currently finalizing the newest initiative in their partnership, which is a call for established and emerging innovations in virtual care for pediatric chronic pain, and plan to officially launch the program later this summer.
“The power of partnership” in a difficult time
While SKIP is off to an effective start, Chambers said that SKIP’s work has been enormously impacted by the pandemic.
“Like other organizations, SKIP is having to learn how to leverage different technologies to continue our work,” she said. “We are having to ask ourselves a lot of questions. How do we keep pain management a priority within health institutions during a crisis like this? What new innovation opportunities, like virtual care, are possible now? How do we continue to build relationships and mobilize knowledge without being able to meet in person? These are the kind of issues we’ll be tackling over the next year.”
Aubrey said she is sure that SKIP will continue to find ways to succeed. It all lies in the “power of partnership,” she stressed.
“It’s very powerful to have different organizations bring their people, expertise, and networks to the table in this kind of synergistic way,” Aubrey said. “It shows that we are all greater than the sum of our parts. When we can work together, we can find a way to get this important knowledge out there and make sure that providers have the tools they need to help children and families better manage pain.”
Kayt Sukel is a freelance writer based outside Houston, Texas.