Educating generalist physicians about chronic pain: live experts and online education can provide durable benefits

John M Harris, Thomas E Elliott, Bennet E Davis, Charles Chabal, John V Fulginiti, Perry G Fine
Pain Medicine 2008, 9 (5): 555-63

OBJECTIVE: Determine whether lectures by national experts and a publicly available online program with similar educational objectives can improve knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs (KAB) important to chronic pain management.

DESIGN: A pretest-posttest randomized design with two active educational interventions in two different physician groups and a third physician group that received live education on a different topic to control for outside influences, including retesting effects, on our evaluation.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 136 community-based primary care physicians met eligibility criteria. All physicians attended the educational program to which they were assigned. Ninety-five physicians (70%) provided complete data for evaluation.

MEASUREMENTS: Physician responses to a standardized 50-item pain management KAB survey before, immediately after, and 3 months following the interventions.

RESULTS: The study groups and the 41 physicians not providing outcomes information were similar with respect to age, sex, race, percent engaged in primary care, and number of patients seen per week. Physician survey scores improved immediately following both pain education programs (live: 138.0-->150.6, P < 0.001; online: 143.6-->150.4, P = 0.007), but did not change appreciably in the control group (139.2-->142.5, P > 0.05). Findings persisted at 3 months. Satisfaction measures were high (4.00-4.72 on 1-5 scale) and not significantly different (P = 0.072-0.893) between groups.

CONCLUSIONS: When used under similar conditions, national speakers and a publicly available online CME program were associated with improved pain management KAB in physicians. The benefits lasted for 3 months. These findings support the continued use of these pain education strategies.

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