Online bioterrorism continuing medical education: development and preliminary testing

Thomas Terndrup, Sarah Nafziger, Norman Weissman, Linda Casebeer, Erica Pryor
Academic Emergency Medicine 2005, 12 (1): 45-50

OBJECTIVE: Education to achieve awareness and competency in responding to incidents of bioterrorism is important for health care professionals, especially emergency physicians and nurses, who are likely first points of medical contact. The authors describe the development of a computer-based approach to initial education, incorporating a screensaver to promote awareness and a Web-based approach to provide initial content competency in the areas of smallpox and anthrax.

METHODS: Screensavers were developed and tested on emergency department rotating senior medical students and internal medicine interns. Conceptually, screensavers were designed as "billboards" for attracting attention to the educational domain. Five rotating images sequenced at five-second intervals incorporated a teaser question and an interactive toolbar. An interactive toolbar was linked to a Web site that provided content on smallpox and anthrax for hospital-based specialties (emergency physicians and nurses, infection control practitioners, pathologists, and radiologists). The content included both summary and comprehensive content as well as free continuing education credits in an online, specialty-specific, case-scenario format with remediation pop-up boxes.

RESULTS: Formal testing indicated that the screensaver and Web site combination deployed on computers in the emergency department and the events of the fall of 2001 significantly increased the percentage of correct responses to five standardized bioterrorism questions. Formal evaluation with a randomized trial and long-term follow-up is ongoing.

CONCLUSIONS: Screensavers and Web sites can be used to increase awareness of bioterrorism. Web-based education may provide an effective means of education for bioterrorism.

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