Introduction: The objective was to review the effect of Internet-based continuing medical education (CME) interventions on physician performance and health care outcomes.
Methods: Data sources included searches of MEDLINE (1966 to January 2004), CINAHL (1982 to December 2003), ACP Journal Club (1991 to July/August 2003), and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (third quarter, 2003). Studies were included in the analyses if they were randomized controlled trials of Internet-based education in which participants were practicing health care professionals or health professionals in training. CME interventions were categorized according to the nature of the intervention, sample size, and other information about educational content and format.
Results: Sixteen studies met the eligibility criteria. Six studies generated positive changes in participant knowledge over traditional formats; only three studies showed a positive change in practices. The remainder of the studies showed no difference in knowledge levels between Internet-based interventions and traditional formats for CME.
Discussion: The results demonstrate that Internet-based CME programs are just as effective in imparting knowledge as traditional formats of CME. Little is known as to whether these positive changes in knowledge are translated into changes in practice. Subjective reports of change in physician behavior should be confirmed through chart review or other objective measures. Additional studies need to be performed to assess how long these new learned behaviors could be sustained. eLearning will continue to evolve as new innovations and more interactive modes are incorporated into learning.