Continuing medical education-driven skills acquisition and impact on improved patient outcomes in family practice setting

N Bellamy, L D Goldstein, R A Tekanoff
Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 2000, 20 (1): 52-61

BACKGROUND: An abundance of educational theory, design, and delivery of continuing medical education (CME) learning interventions, including their impact on learners, are described in the health and social sciences literature. However, establishing a direct correlation between the acquisition of new skills by learners and patient outcomes as a result of a planned CME learning intervention has been difficult to demonstrate.

METHODS: The learning intervention described here tested the impact of an injection skills-acquisition program for family physicians treating osteoarthritis of the knee by measuring patient outcomes using the pain and function subscales of the Western Ontario and McMaster (WOMAC) 3.0 osteoarthritis index, a standardized and fully validated patient-centered outcome measurement. It was hypothesized that patients of family physicians who participated in this skills-acquisition CME program would benefit from treatment administered by their physician during the time between injection skills acquisition to 6 weeks post-injection. Inclusion of a validated health status measure administered pre- and post-injection in addition to more traditional faculty and participant program evaluations was deemed necessary to test this hypothesis. Rheumatology, orthopedic surgery, and family medicine specialists from across Canada were invited to contribute to the planning, curriculum elaboration, and delivery of the viscosupplement injector preceptorship (VIP) program. Thirty-nine orthopedic and rheumatology specialists agreed to serve as expert faculty and participated in training 474 Canadian family and general practitioners over 8 months. The learning intervention involved a review of pertinent literature by a local preceptor and a summary of recommendations of the planning committee, followed by demonstration of injector skills and then supervised practice with patients, who received hylan G-F 20 (Synvisc, Ridgefield, NJ) usually in the offices of the family physicians. The pain and function subscales of the WOMAC 3.0 questionnaire were self-administered to each patient in their physician's office, prior to receiving their joint injection and again at or near 6-weeks post-injection. Data were analyzed in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at The University of Western Ontario, London, ON.

RESULTS: Clinically important statistically significant improvements in pain and physical function were noted in patients who received viscosupplementation treatment from family physicians who had recently acquired the necessary injection skills. Approximately three-quarters of the patients experienced a reduction in pain and an improvement in physical function of at least 20%.

IMPLICATIONS: These results suggest a positive relationship between acquisition of a new skill by learners and improved patient outcomes as a result of this planned CME learning intervention.

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