Effectiveness of a clinically integrated e-learning course in evidence-based medicine for reproductive health training: a randomized trial

JAMA. 2012 Dec 5;308(21):2218-25. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.33640.


Context: For evidence-based practice to embed culturally in the workplace, teaching of evidence-based medicine (EBM) should be clinically integrated. In low-middle-income countries (LMICs) there is a scarcity of EBM-trained clinical tutors, lack of protected time for teaching EBM, and poor access to relevant databases in languages other than English.

Objective: To evaluate the effects of a clinically integrated e-learning EBM course incorporating the World Health Organization (WHO) Reproductive Health Library (RHL) on knowledge, skills, and educational environment compared with traditional EBM teaching.

Design, setting, and participants: International cluster randomized trial conducted between April 2009 and November 2010 among postgraduate trainees in obstetrics-gynecology in 7 LMICs (Argentina, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand). Each training unit was randomized to an experimental clinically integrated course consisting of e-modules using the RHL for learning activities and trainee assessments (31 clusters, 123 participants) or to a control self-directed EBM course incorporating the RHL (29 clusters, 81 participants). A facilitator with EBM teaching experience was available at all teaching units. Courses were administered for 8 weeks, with assessments at baseline and 4 weeks after course completion. The study was completed in 24 experimental clusters (98 participants) and 22 control clusters (68 participants).

Main outcome measures: Primary outcomes were change in EBM knowledge (score range, 0-62) and skills (score range, 0-14). Secondary outcome was educational environment (5-point Likert scale anchored between 1 [strongly agree] and 5 [strongly disagree]).

Results: At baseline, the study groups were similar in age, year of training, and EBM-related attitudes and knowledge. After the trial, the experimental group had higher mean scores in knowledge (38.1 [95% CI, 36.7 to 39.4] in the control group vs 43.1 [95% CI, 42.0 to 44.1] in the experimental group; adjusted difference, 4.9 [95% CI, 2.9 to 6.8]; P < .001) and skills (8.3 [95% CI, 7.9 to 8.7] vs 9.1 [95% CI, 8.7 to 9.4]; adjusted difference, 0.7 [95% CI, 0.1 to 1.3]; P = .02). Although there was no difference in improvement for the overall score for educational environment (6.0 [95% CI, -0.1 to 12.0] vs 13.6 [95% CI, 8.0 to 19.2]; adjusted difference, 9.6 [95% CI, -6.8 to 26.1]; P = .25), there was an associated mean improvement in the domains of general relationships and support (-0.5 [95% CI, -1.5 to 0.4] vs 0.3 [95% CI, -0.6 to 1.1]; adjusted difference, 2.3 [95% CI, 0.2 to 4.3]; P = .03) and EBM application opportunities (0.5 [95% CI, -0.7 to 1.8] vs 2.9 [95%, CI, 1.8 to 4.1]; adjusted difference, 3.3 [95% CI, 0.1 to 6.5]; P = .04).

Conclusion: In a group of LMICs, a clinically integrated e-learning EBM curriculum in reproductive health compared with a self-directed EBM course resulted in higher knowledge and skill scores and improved educational environment.

Trial registration: anzctr.org.au Identifier: ACTRN12609000198224.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Developing Countries*
  • Education, Distance*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / education*
  • Female
  • Gynecology / education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obstetrics / education
  • Reproductive Health / education*
  • World Health Organization