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Navigating the World of Online GP Education: Lessons from a Randomised Trial

31 October 2023 - A/Prof Stephen Barnett

Can online education for general practitioners (GPs) reshape the way healthcare professionals prescribe medications and order diagnostic tests?

Research from the CHIME GP project that Medcast conducted for the Australian Digital Health Agency has been published in the BMJ Open Quality Journal by Prof Andrew Bonney et al from the University of Wollongong. The article is titled "Randomised Trial of General Practitioner Online Education for Prescribing and Test Ordering". 

The Quest for Safer and More Efficient Healthcare

In an age where potentially inappropriate prescriptions and low-value diagnostic tests can pose risks to patient safety and inflate healthcare costs, the need for innovation in healthcare practice is more significant than ever. This article reports on the CHIME-GP project  (Clinical and Healthcare Improvement through My Health Record Usage and Education in General Practice), which aimed to evaluate a scalable online quality improvement intervention for Australian GPs.

The Study Setup: Three Arms, One Goal

The research was designed as a parallel three-arm randomised trial, each focusing on a specific aspect of education: prescribing, pathology, and imaging. Australian GPs participated and were randomly assigned to one of these three arms. The primary goal was to assess the impact of online education on reducing potentially unnecessary medicine prescriptions and tests.

The Results: A Glimpse into the Findings

The results showed that, in the intention-to-treat analysis, there were no significant differences in the rates of change in costs across the three arms. However, when looking at the per-protocol analysis, there was a statistically significant difference in the rate of change in pathology costs.

In the pathology arm, the rate of increase in pathology costs was significantly lower than in the prescribing arm, suggesting that online education had a positive impact in this area. The study's findings offer some promising insights into the potential benefits of online GP education.

Challenges Faced and Future Directions

Improving completion rates and providing real-time feedback on prescribing and test ordering are some suggested options for enhancing the overall effectiveness of such interventions. However, these results show that the online delivery of this education provides a positive pathway for potential upscaling, which could yield massive cost savings and better patient outcomes.

Conclusion: Shaping the Future of Healthcare Education

In a world where technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, it's no surprise that it's also making waves in healthcare education. This study offers a glimpse into the potential of online GP education to shape a safer and more cost-effective future for healthcare. We are reminded of the power of innovation in improving patient outcomes and the efficiency of our healthcare systems.

Read the full article here:

A/Prof Stephen Barnett
A/Prof Stephen Barnett

Stephen is a GP Supervisor, Medical Educator, GP academic and Medical Director of Medcast. He has completed a PhD on Virtual Communities of Practice in GP Training.

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