Social network sites (SNSs) are widely exploited in health education and communication by the general public, including patients with various conditions. Nevertheless, there is an absence of evidence evaluating SNSs in connecting health professionals for professional purposes.
This pilot randomized controlled trial was designed to evaluate the feasibility of an intervention aiming to investigate the effects of a continuous professional education program utilizing Facebook to obtain knowledge on dementia and care for patients with dementia.
Eighty health professionals from Hong Kong were recruited for participation in the study and randomized at a 1:1 ratio by a block randomization method to the intervention group (n=40) and control group (n=40). The intervention was an 8-week educational program developed to deliver updated knowledge on dementia care from a multidisciplinary perspective, either by Facebook (intervention group) or by email (control group) from October 2018 to January 2019. The primary outcomes were the effects of the intervention, measured by differences in the means of changes in pre- and postintervention scores of knowledge assessments from the 25-item Dementia Knowledge Assessment Scale (DKAS) and formative evaluation of 20 multiple choice questions. Other outcome measurements included participant compliance, participant engagement in Facebook, satisfaction, and self-perceived uses of Facebook for continuing professional education programs.
Significantly more intervention group participants (n=35) completed the study than the control group (n=25) ( P<.001). The overall retention rate was 75% (60/80). The mean of changes in scores in the intervention group were significant in all assessments ( P<.001). A significant difference in the mean of changes in scores between the two groups was identified in the DKAS subscale Communication and Behavior (95% CI 0.4-3.3, P=.02). There was no significant difference in the total DKAS scores, scores of other DKAS subscales, and multiple choice questions. Participant compliance was significantly higher in the intervention group than in the control group ( P<.001). The mean numbers of participants accessing the learning materials were 31.5 (SD 3.9) and 17.6 (SD 5.2) in the intervention and control group, respectively. Polls attracted the highest level of participant engagement, followed by videos. Intervention group participants scored significantly higher in favoring the use of Facebook for the continuing education program ( P=.03). Overall, participants were satisfied with the interventions (mean score 4 of a total of 5, SD 0.6).
The significantly higher retention rate, together with the high levels of participant compliance and engagement, demonstrate that Facebook is a promising tool for professional education. Education delivered through Facebook was significantly more effective at improving participants’ knowledge of how people with dementia communicate and behave. Participants demonstrated positive attitudes toward utilizing Facebook for professional learning. These findings provide evidence for the feasibility of using Facebook as an intervention delivery tool in a manner that can be rolled out into practical settings.