Introduction: A gap exists between asthma guidelines and actual care delivered. We developed an educational intervention using simulated physician-patient encounters as part of a project to improve asthma management by community-based primary care providers. We hypothesized that this type of skills-based interactive training would improve learners' care choices for simulated patients after training compared with their choices before training.
Methods: After a pilot project was done on a small group of providers, a larger group of primary care providers (PCPs) was recruited to be trained with our interactive materials. The pilot session, with 39 providers, showed that the cases were felt to be appropriate, that the time allocated for discussion was adequate, that the models were useful, that the experience was educational, and that the experience captured their interest. Two subsequent training sessions were held with 240 PCPs. Participants completed a questionnaire to elicit perceived barriers and self-efficacy and then viewed a short simulated physician-patient dialogue. They then completed a set of scaled questions about treatment choices. This served as a pretest assessment. A similar simulation was then shown, and the group discussed their thoughts on diagnosis and treatment. Finally, they viewed another physician-patient interaction and responded to the same questions as posed for the pretest assessment; the responses before and after assessment were compared.
Results: Following completion of the intervention, providers were significantly (p < 0.05) more likely to make use of controller medications, asthma equipment, and patient training. Significant (p < 0.05) increases were also seen in action plan development and the availability of office visits. Providers were significantly (p < 0.05) less likely to refer asthma patients to an emergency department or for hospitalization. Significant (p < 0.05) improvements were also seen in perceptions of self-efficacy and barriers to treatment. There were significant (p < 0.05) increases in learners' confidence about their own and patients' abilities to improve asthma care, and fewer barriers to asthma management were reported after the training.
Discussion: This method of training resulted in learners showing a measurable improvement in their intent to follow guidelines as applied to simulated patients. An evaluation addressing actual patient outcomes will need to be done.