Webinar Training: an acceptable, feasible and effective approach for multi-site medical record abstraction: the BOWII experience

BMC Res Notes. 2011 Oct 20:4:430. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-430.


Background: Abstractor training is a key element in creating valid and reliable data collection procedures. The choice between in-person vs. remote or simultaneous vs. sequential abstractor training has considerable consequences for time and resource utilization. We conducted a web-based (webinar) abstractor training session to standardize training across six individual Cancer Research Network (CRN) sites for a study of breast cancer treatment effects in older women (BOWII). The goals of this manuscript are to describe the training session, its participants and participants' evaluation of webinar technology for abstraction training.

Findings: A webinar was held for all six sites with the primary purpose of simultaneously training staff and ensuring consistent abstraction across sites. The training session involved sequential review of over 600 data elements outlined in the coding manual in conjunction with the display of data entry fields in the study's electronic data collection system. Post-training evaluation was conducted via Survey Monkey©. Inter-rater reliability measures for abstractors within each site were conducted three months after the commencement of data collection.Ten of the 16 people who participated in the training completed the online survey. Almost all (90%) of the 10 trainees had previous medical record abstraction experience and nearly two-thirds reported over 10 years of experience. Half of the respondents had previously participated in a webinar, among which three had participated in a webinar for training purposes. All rated the knowledge and information delivered through the webinar as useful and reported it adequately prepared them for data collection. Moreover, all participants would recommend this platform for multi-site abstraction training. Consistent with participant-reported training effectiveness, results of data collection inter-rater agreement within sites ranged from 89 to 98%, with a weighted average of 95% agreement across sites.

Conclusions: Conducting training via web-based technology was an acceptable and effective approach to standardizing medical record review across multiple sites for this group of experienced abstractors. Given the substantial time and cost savings achieved with the webinar, coupled with participants' positive evaluation of the training session, researchers should consider this instructional method as part of training efforts to ensure high quality data collection in multi-site studies.