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CNS Spectr. 2019 Feb;24(1):189-190. doi: 10.1017/S1092852919000221.

28 How is Postpartum Depression Currently Diagnosed and Managed? Insights from a Virtual Patient Simulation.

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1Medscape Education,New York,NY.
2Associate Professor of Psychiatry,Harvard Medical School,Massachusetts General Hospital,Boston,Massachusetts.
3Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology,University of Toronto;Head,Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit,University Health Network;Program Clinical Director,Mental Health and Addictions,The Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre,Toronto,Canada.



The goal of this study was to determine physician performance in diagnosis and management of postpartum depression (PPD) and to provide needed education in the consequence free environment of a virtual patient simulation (VPS).


∙ A continuing medical education activity was delivered via an online VPS learning platform that offers a lifelike clinical care experience with complete freedom of choice in clinical decision-making and expert personalized feedback to address learner's practice gaps∙ Physicians including psychiatrists, primary care physicians (PCPs), and obstetricians/gynecologists (ob/gyns) were presented with two cases of PPD designed to model the experience of actual practice by including use of electronic health records∙ Following virtual interactions with patients, physicians were asked to make decisions regarding assessments, diagnoses, and pharmacologic therapies. The clinical decisions were analyzed using a sophisticated decision engine, and clinical guidance (CG) based on current evidence-based recommendations was provided in response to learners' clinical decisions∙ Impact of the education was measured by comparing participant decisions pre- and post-CG using a 2-tailed, paired t-test; P <.05 was considered statistically significant∙ The activity launched on Medscape Education on April 26, 2018, and data were collected through to June 17,2018.


∙ From pre- to post-CG in the simulation, physicians were more likely to make evidence-based clinical decisions related to:∙ Ordering appropriate baseline tests including tools/scales to screen for PPD: in case 1, psychiatrists (n=624) improved from 34% to 42% on average (P<.05); PCPs (n=197) improved from 38% to 48% on average (P<.05); and, ob/gyns (n=216) improved from 30% to 38% on average (P<.05)∙ Diagnosing moderate-to-severe PPD: in case 2, psychiatrists (n=531) improved from 46% to 62% (P<.05); PCPs (n=154) improved from 43% to 55% (P<.05); and, ob/gyns (n=137) improved from 55% to 73% (P<.05)∙ Ordering appropriate treatments for moderate-to-severe PPD such as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors: in case 2, psychiatrists (n=531) improved from 47% CG to 75% (P<.05); PCPs (n=154) improved from 55% to 74% (P<.05); and, ob/gyns (n=137) improved from 51% to 78% (P<.05)∙ Interestingly, a small percentage of physicians (average of 5%) chose investigational agents for PPD which were in clinical trials pre-CG, and this increased to an average of 9% post-CG CONCLUSIONS: Physicians who participated in VPS-based education significantly improved their clinical decision-making in PPD, particularly in selection of validated screening tools/scales, diagnosis, and pharmacologic treatments based on severity. Given that VPS immerses physicians in an authentic, practical learning experience matching the scope of clinical practice, this type of intervention can be used to determine clinical practice gaps and translate knowledge into practice.Funding Acknowledgements: The educational activity and outcomes measurement were funded through an independent educational grant from Sage Therapeutics, Inc.


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