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Open Access Research article

Long-term impact of four different strategies for delivering an on-line curriculum about herbs and other dietary supplements

Tiffany Beal1, Kathi J Kemper2*, Paula Gardiner3 and Charles Woods2

Author Affiliations

1 Physican Assistant Program at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Winston-Salem, NC, 27157, USA

2 Departments of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Winston-Salem, 27157, NC, USA

3 Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School, Osher Institute, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:39  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-39

Published: 7 August 2006

Abstract

Background

Previous research has shown that internet education can lead to short-term improvements in clinicians' knowledge, confidence and communication practices. We wished to better understand the duration of these improvements and whether different curriculum delivery strategies differed in affecting these improvements.

Methods

As previously described, we conducted a randomized control trial comparing four different strategies for delivering an e-curriculum about herbs and other dietary supplements (HDS) to clinicians. The four strategies were delivering the curriculum by: a) email over 10 weeks; b) email within one week; c) web-site over 10 weeks; d) web-site within one week. Participants were surveyed at baseline, immediately after the course and 6–10 months after completing the course (long-term). Long-term outcomes focused on clinicians' knowledge, confidence and communication practices.

Results

Of the 780 clinicians who completed the course, 385 (49%) completed the long-term survey. Completers and non-completers of the long-term survey had similar demographics and professional characteristics at baseline. There were statistically significant improvements from baseline to long-term follow-up in knowledge, confidence and communication practices; these improvements did not differ by curriculum delivery strategy. Knowledge scores improved from 67.7 ± 10.3 at baseline to 78.8 ± 12.3 at long-term follow-up (P < 0.001). Confidence scores improved from 53.7 ± 17.8 at baseline to 66.9 ± 12.0 at long term follow-up (P < 0.001); communication scores improved from 2.6 ± 1.9 at baseline to 3.6 ± 2.1 (P < 0.001) at long-term follow-up.

Conclusion

This e- curriculum led to significant and sustained improvements in clinicians' expertise about HDS regardless of the delivery strategy. Future studies should compare the impact of required vs. elective courses and self-reported vs. objective measures of behavior change.