Background: Antimicrobial prescribing behaviour is first established during medical study, but teachers often cite lack of time as an important problem in the implementation of antimicrobial stewardship in the medical curriculum. The use of electronic learning (e-learning) is a potentially time-efficient solution, but its effectiveness in changing long-term prescribing behaviour in medical students is as yet unknown.
Methods: We performed a prospective controlled intervention study of the long-term effects of a short interactive e-learning course among fourth year medical students in a Dutch university. The e-learning was temporarily implemented as a non-compulsory course during a 6 week period. Six months later, all students underwent an infectious disease-based objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) aimed at simulating postgraduate prescribing. If they passed, each student did the OSCE only once. We created a control group of students from a period when the e-learning was not implemented. Main outcomes were the OSCE pass percentage and knowledge, drug choice and overall scores. We used propensity scores to create equal comparisons.
Results: We included 71 students in the intervention group and 285 students in the control group. E-learning participation in the intervention group was 81%. The OSCE pass percentage was 86% in the control group versus 97% in the intervention group (+11%, OR 5.9, 95% CI 1.7-20.0). OSCE overall, knowledge and drug choice grades (1-10) were also significantly higher in the intervention group (differences +0.31, +0.31 and +0.51, respectively).
Conclusions: E-learning during a limited period can significantly improve medical students' performance of an antimicrobial therapeutic consultation in a situation simulating clinical practice 6 months later.