Background: The Spanish Palliative Care Strategy recommends an intermediate level of training for primary care physicians in order to provide them with knowledge and skills. Most of the training involves face-to-face courses but increasing pressures on physicians have resulted in fewer opportunities for provision of and attendance to this type of training. The effectiveness of on-line continuing medical education in terms of its impact on clinical practice has been scarcely studied. Its effect in relation to palliative care for primary care physicians is currently unknown, in terms of improvement in patient's quality of life and main caregiver's satisfaction. There is uncertainty too in terms of any potential benefits of asynchronous communication and interaction among on-line education participants, as well as of the effect of the learning process.The authors have developed an on-line educational model for palliative care which has been applied to primary care physicians in order to measure its effectiveness regarding knowledge, attitude towards palliative care, and physician's satisfaction in comparison with a control group.The effectiveness evaluation at 18 months and the impact on the quality of life of patients managed by the physicians, and the main caregiver's satisfaction will be addressed in a different paper.
Methods: Randomized controlled educational trial to compared, on a first stage, the knowledge and attitude of primary care physicians regarding palliative care for advanced cancer patients, as well as satisfaction in those who followed an on-line palliative care training program with tutorship, using a Moodle Platform vs. traditional education.
Results: 169 physicians were included, 85 in the intervention group and 84 in the control group, of which five were excluded. Finally 82 participants per group were analyzed. There were significant differences in favor of the intervention group, in terms of knowledge (mean 4.6; CI 95%: 2.8 to 6.5 (p = 0.0001), scale range 0-33), confidence in symptom management (p = 0.02) and confidence in terms of communication (p = 0.038). Useful aspects were pointed out, as well as others to be improved in future applications. The satisfaction of the intervention group was high.
Conclusions: The results of this study show that there was a significant increase of knowledge of 14%-20% and a significant increase in the perception of confidence in symptom management and communication in the intervention group in comparison with the control group that received traditional methods of education in palliative care or no educational activity at all. The overall satisfaction with the intervention was good-very good for most participants.This on-line educational model seems a useful tool for palliative care training in primary care physicians who have a high opinion about the integration of palliative care within primary care. The results of this study support the suggestion that learning effectiveness should be currently investigated comparing different Internet interventions, instead of Internet vs. no intervention.