Development, implementation and evaluation of an online course on evidence-based healthcare for consumers

BMC Health Serv Res. 2020 Oct 8;20(1):928. doi: 10.1186/s12913-020-05759-5.


Background: Evidence-based healthcare (EBHC) principles are essential knowledge for patient and consumer ("consumer") engagement as research and research implementation stakeholders. The aim of this study was to assess whether participation in a free, self-paced online course affects confidence in explaining EBHC topics. The course comprises six modules and evaluations which together take about 6 h to complete.

Methods: Consumers United for Evidence-based Healthcare (CUE) designed, tested and implemented a free, online course for consumers, Understanding Evidence-based Healthcare: A Foundation for Action ("Understanding EBHC"). The course is offered through the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Participants rated their confidence in explaining EBHC topics on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), using an online evaluation provided before accessing the course ("Before") and after ("After") completing all six course modules. We analyzed data from those who registered for the course from May 31, 2007 to December 31, 2018 (n = 15,606), and among those persons, the 11,522 who completed the "Before" evaluation and 4899 who completed the "After" evaluation. Our primary outcome was the overall mean of within-person change ("overall mean change") in self-reported confidence levels on EBHC-related topics between "Before" and "After" evaluations among course completers. Our secondary outcomes were the mean within-person change for each of the 11 topics (mean change by topic).

Results: From May 31, 2007 to December 31, 2018, 15,606 individuals registered for the course: 11,522 completed the "Before" evaluation, and 4899 of these completed the "After" evaluation (i.e., completed the course). The overall mean change in self-reported confidence levels (ranging from 1 to 5) from the "Before" to "After" evaluation was 1.27 (95% CI, 1.24-1.30). The mean change by topic ranged from 1.00 (95% CI, 0.96-1.03) to 1.90 (95% CI, 1.87-1.94).

Conclusion: Those who seek to involve consumer stakeholders can offer Understanding EBHC as a step toward meaningful consumer engagement. Future research should focus on long-term impact assessment of online course such as ours to understand whether confidence is retained post-course and applied appropriately.

Keywords: Consumer education; Consumer health information; Distance education; Online learning; Patient education.