Context: Prostate cancer screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is frequently performed, counter to clinical practice guidelines.
Background: It was hypothesized that an e-mail-based intervention termed "spaced education" could reduce clinicians' inappropriate screening for prostate cancer.
Design: The study was conducted as an RCT.
Setting/participants: The study involved 95 primary care clinicians in eight Veterans Affairs medical centers from January 2007 to February 2009.
Intervention: Participants were randomized into two cohorts: spaced education clinicians received four isomorphic cycles of nine e-mails over 36 weeks (zero to two e-mails per week), whereas control clinicians received no intervention. Each e-mail presented a clinical scenario and asked whether it was appropriate to obtain a PSA test. Participants received immediate feedback after submitting their answers.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was the number and percentage of inappropriate PSA screening tests ordered. Inappropriate testing was defined as use of PSA for prostate cancer screening in patients aged >76 or <40 years. Appropriateness of screening was dichotomized based on patient age at time of screening. Patients with PSA testing for non-screening reasons were excluded using a validated protocol. Logistic regression with adjustment for patient clustering by clinician was performed. Analyses were conducted in 2009.
Results: During the intervention period (Weeks 1-36), clinicians receiving spaced education e-mails ordered significantly fewer inappropriate PSA screening tests than control clinicians (10.5% vs 14.2%, p=0.041). Over the 72-week period following the intervention (Weeks 37-108), spaced education clinicians continued to order fewer inappropriate tests compared to controls (7.8% vs 13.1%, respectively, p=0.011), representing a 40% relative reduction in inappropriate screening.
Conclusions: Spaced education durably improves the prostate cancer screening behaviors of clinicians and represents a promising new methodology to improve patient care across healthcare systems.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01168323.
Published by Elsevier Inc.