By Todd Molfenter, director of Great Lakes ATTC & director, NIATx, Laurie Krom – ATTC NCO co-director, and Maxine Henry, ATTC NCO co-director
In August 2013, the ATTC Network and NIATx launched the ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement blog with a welcome post by Laurie Krom and Kim Johnson, aptly titled "Better Together." The inaugural post celebrated the ATTC Network and NIATx collaboration and shared vision for the behavioral health field. Ten years and more than 300 blog posts later, we’re even better together!
Our "Better Together" collaboration continues to evolve and grow. The ATTC Network was established 30 years ago to promote technology transfer and bridge the gap between research and real-world application. NIATx entered the scene 20 years ago, focused on evidence-based process improvement and systems change practice. The magical combination of technology transfer and process improvement has helped to fuel transformative change in prevention, treatment, and recovery practices—now more important than ever as we face the intersecting epidemics of HIV, hepatitis, substance use disorders, mental health issues, and pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality.
The ATTC/NIATx approach that has emerged from combining technology transfer (or translational science), process improvement, and implementation science offers several guiding practices that can help tackle health challenges and drive the adoption of effective, evidence-based solutions:
1. Identifying implementation brokers: Both NIATx and ATTC recognize the importance of key individuals in scaling up practices. The NIATx model includes the key roles of Executive Sponsor and Change Leader. The ATTC Network’s seminal product, The Change Book, also promotes the use of a Change Leader. These roles are implementation brokers. They can help accelerate the implementation process. For example, in implementing medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), we’ve learned that payers, administrators, clinical champions, and recovery community leaders play integral roles.
2. Translating knowledge: A key element of the ATTC Network’s Continuum of the Diffusion of an Innovation is translation. ATTC’s define translation as “explaining the essential elements and relevance of an innovation, then packaging it to facilitate dissemination.” Examples could include lay-language newsletter articles describing an innovation or training curricula. In the NIATx model, the voice of the customer highlights the importance of translating research into accessible, culturally responsive language for people outside the scientific community. Incorporating input from those receiving services has long been part of ATTC and NIATx practice, resulting in numerous products and technical assistance knowledge translations.
3. Aligning implementation strategies: Leveraging implementation science, NIATx tools such as the PDSA cycle, and the practical experience of ATTCs, we understand the value of selecting strategies to enhance the implementation process. For example, in community health or criminal justice settings with multiple systems components, a learning collaborative with coaching may be the perfect solution for building MOUD capacity. In contrast, implementing Narcan distribution at ED discharge may require a less intensive strategy, such as step-by-step instructions provided in a quick podcast or YouTube video.
4. Leveraging partners: Scaling up evidence-based practices requires collaboration and coordination. Our long-standing relationships with regional partners create effective channels for disseminating implementation products and services. For example, each ATTC Regional Center utilizes a robust Advisory Board comprised of key partners and SAMHSA and state officials.
As the ATTC Network and NIATx grow better together, we look forward to sharing our successes in the ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement Blog. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories as we shine a spotlight on the incredible innovations and achievements of our colleagues. Here's to another 10 years of transformative change as we address today’s most pressing healthcare challenges together.