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      A controlled trial of the effectiveness of internet continuing medical education

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          The internet has had a strong impact on how physicians access information and on the development of continuing medical education activities. Evaluation of the effectiveness of these activities has lagged behind their development.


          To determine the effectiveness of a group of 48 internet continuing medical education (CME) activities, case vignette surveys were administered to US physicians immediately following participation, and to a representative control group of non-participant physicians. Responses to case vignettes were analyzed based on evidence presented in the content of CME activities. An effect size for each activity was calculated using Cohen's d to determine the amount of difference between the two groups in the likelihood of making evidence-based clinical decisions, expressed as the percentage of non-overlap, between the two groups. Two formats were compared.


          In a sample of 5621 US physicians, of the more than 100,000 physicians who participated in 48 internet CME activities, the average effect size was 0.75, an increased likelihood of 45% that participants were making choices in response to clinical case vignettes based on clinical evidence. This likelihood was higher in interactive case-based activities, 51% (effect size 0.89), than for text-based clinical updates, 40% (effect size 0.63). Effectiveness was also higher among primary care physicians than specialists.


          Physicians who participated in selected internet CME activities were more likely to make evidence-based clinical choices than non-participants in response to clinical case vignettes. Internet CME activities show promise in offering a searchable, credible, available on-demand, high-impact source of CME for physicians.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciensec

           J Cohen,  JI Cohen,  JE Cohen (1988)
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            Comparison of vignettes, standardized patients, and chart abstraction: a prospective validation study of 3 methods for measuring quality.

            Better health care quality is a universal goal, yet measuring quality has proven to be difficult and problematic. A central problem has been isolating physician practices from other effects of the health care system. To validate clinical vignettes as a method for measuring the competence of physicians and the quality of their actual practice. Prospective trial conducted in 1997 comparing 3 methods for measuring the quality of care for 4 common outpatient conditions: (1) structured reports by standardized patients (SPs), trained actors who presented unannounced to physicians' clinics (the gold standard); (2) abstraction of medical records for those same visits; and (3) physicians' responses to clinical vignettes that exactly corresponded to the SPs' presentations. Setting Outpatient primary care clinics at 2 Veterans Affairs medical centers. Ninety-eight (97%) of 101 general internal medicine staff physicians, faculty, and second- and third-year residents consented to be randomized for the study. From this group, 10 physicians at each site were randomly selected for inclusion. A total of 160 quality scores (8 cases x 20 physicians) were generated for each method using identical explicit criteria based on national guidelines and local expert panels. Scores were defined as the percentage of process criteria correctly met and were compared among the 3 methods. The quality of care, as measured by all 3 methods, ranged from 76.2% (SPs) to 71.0% (vignettes) to 65.6% (chart abstraction). Measuring quality using vignettes consistently produced scores closer to the gold standard of SP scores than using chart abstraction. This pattern was robust when the scores were disaggregated by the 4 conditions (P<.001 to <.05), by case complexity (P<.001), by site (P<.001), and by level of physician training (P values from <.001 to <.05). The pattern persisted, although less dominantly, when we assessed the component domains of the clinical encounter--history, physical examination, diagnosis, and treatment. Vignettes were responsive to expected directions of variation in quality between sites and levels of training. The vignette responses did not appear to be sensitive to physicians' having seen an SP presenting with the same case. Our data indicate that quality of health care can be measured in an outpatient setting by using clinical vignettes. Vignettes appear to be a valid and comprehensive method that directly focuses on the process of care provided in actual clinical practice. Vignettes show promise as an inexpensive case-mix adjusted method for measuring the quality of care provided by a group of physicians.
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              Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education

              Background We have witnessed a rapid increase in the use of Web-based 'collaborationware' in recent years. These Web 2.0 applications, particularly wikis, blogs and podcasts, have been increasingly adopted by many online health-related professional and educational services. Because of their ease of use and rapidity of deployment, they offer the opportunity for powerful information sharing and ease of collaboration. Wikis are Web sites that can be edited by anyone who has access to them. The word 'blog' is a contraction of 'Web Log' – an online Web journal that can offer a resource rich multimedia environment. Podcasts are repositories of audio and video materials that can be "pushed" to subscribers, even without user intervention. These audio and video files can be downloaded to portable media players that can be taken anywhere, providing the potential for "anytime, anywhere" learning experiences (mobile learning). Discussion Wikis, blogs and podcasts are all relatively easy to use, which partly accounts for their proliferation. The fact that there are many free and Open Source versions of these tools may also be responsible for their explosive growth. Thus it would be relatively easy to implement any or all within a Health Professions' Educational Environment. Paradoxically, some of their disadvantages also relate to their openness and ease of use. With virtually anybody able to alter, edit or otherwise contribute to the collaborative Web pages, it can be problematic to gauge the reliability and accuracy of such resources. While arguably, the very process of collaboration leads to a Darwinian type 'survival of the fittest' content within a Web page, the veracity of these resources can be assured through careful monitoring, moderation, and operation of the collaborationware in a closed and secure digital environment. Empirical research is still needed to build our pedagogic evidence base about the different aspects of these tools in the context of medical/health education. Summary and conclusion If effectively deployed, wikis, blogs and podcasts could offer a way to enhance students', clinicians' and patients' learning experiences, and deepen levels of learners' engagement and collaboration within digital learning environments. Therefore, research should be conducted to determine the best ways to integrate these tools into existing e-Learning programmes for students, health professionals and patients, taking into account the different, but also overlapping, needs of these three audience classes and the opportunities of virtual collaboration between them. Of particular importance is research into novel integrative applications, to serve as the "glue" to bind the different forms of Web-based collaborationware synergistically in order to provide a coherent wholesome learning experience.

                Author and article information

                BMC Med
                BMC Medicine
                BioMed Central
                4 December 2008
                : 6
                : 37
                [1 ]Outcomes, Inc., 300 Riverchase Pkwy E, Birmingham, AL 35244, USA
                [2 ]Consultant, Outcomes, Inc., 300 Riverchase Pkwy E, Birmingham, AL 35244, USA
                [3 ]Medscape, LLC, 76 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011, USA
                [4 ]University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA
                Copyright © 2008 Casebeer et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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