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Cucciare MA, Abraham TH, Kemp L, White P, Marchant K, Hagedorn HJ, Humphreys K. Adapting the Eliminating Medications Through Patient Ownership of End Results Protocol to Promote Benzodiazepine Cessation Among US Military Veterans: Focus Group Study With US Military Veterans and National Veterans Health Administration Leaders. Journal of medical Internet research. 2022 Sep 19; 24(9):e35514.
BACKGROUND: Long-term dependence on prescribed benzodiazepines is a public health problem. Eliminating Medications Through Patient Ownership of End Results (EMPOWER) is a promising self-management intervention, delivered directly to patients as a printed booklet, that is effective in promoting benzodiazepine reduction and cessation in older adults. EMPOWER has high potential to benefit large health care systems such as the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which cares for many veterans who use benzodiazepines for extended periods. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to adapt the original EMPOWER booklet materials for electronic delivery and for use among US military veterans receiving VHA care who were long-term benzodiazepine users. METHODS: We used elements of Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation, a framework commonly used in the field of instructional design, to guide a qualitative approach to iteratively adapting EMPOWER Electronic Delivery (EMPOWER-ED). We conducted 3 waves of focus groups with the same 2 groups of VHA stakeholders. Stakeholders were VHA-enrolled veterans (n = 16) with medical chart evidence of long-term benzodiazepine use and national VHA leaders (n = 7) with expertise in setting VHA policy for prescription benzodiazepine use and developing electronically delivered educational tools for veterans. Qualitative data collected from each wave of focus groups were analyzed using template analysis. RESULTS: Themes that emerged from the initial focus groups included veterans'' anxiety about self-tapering from benzodiazepines and prior negative experiences attempting to self-taper without support. Participants also provided feedback on the protocol''s look and feel, educational content, the tapering protocol, and website functionality; for example, feedback from policy leaders included listing, on the cover page, the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines to ensure that veterans were aware of medications that qualify for self-taper using the EMPOWER-ED protocol. Both groups of stakeholders identified the importance of having access to supportive resources to help veterans manage sleep and anxiety in the absence of taking benzodiazepines. Both groups also emphasized the importance of ensuring that the self-taper could be personalized and that the taper instructions were clear. The policy leaders emphasized the importance of encouraging veterans to notify their provider of their decision to self-taper to help facilitate provider assistance, if needed, with the taper process and to help prevent medication stockpiling. CONCLUSIONS: EMPOWER-ED is the first direct-to-patient electronically delivered protocol designed to help US military veterans self-taper from long-term benzodiazepine use. We used the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation framework to guide the successful adaption of the original EMPOWER booklet for use with this population and for electronic delivery. The next step in this line of research is to evaluate EMPOWER-ED in a randomized controlled trial.