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J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2011 Spring;31(2):103-8. doi: 10.1002/chp.20113.

Impact on clinical behavior of face-to-face continuing medical education blended with online spaced education: a randomized controlled trial.

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Workforce Education and Development Group, University of Sydney, Australia.



Spaced education (SE) is a novel, evidence-based form of online learning. We investigated whether an SE program following a face-to-face continuing medical education (CME) course could enhance the course's impact on providers' clinical behaviors.


This randomized controlled trial was conducted from March 2009 to April 2010, immediately following the Current Clinical Issues in Primary Care (Pri-Med) CME conference in Houston, Texas. Enrolled providers were randomized to receive the SE program immediately after the live CME event or 18 weeks later (wait-list controls). The SE program consisted of 40 validated questions and explanations covering 4 clinical topics. The repetition intervals were adapted to each provider based on his or her performance (8- and 16-day intervals for incorrect and correct answers, respectively). Questions were retired when answered correctly twice in a row. At week 18, a behavior change survey instrument was administered simultaneously to providers in both cohorts.


Seventy-four percent of participants (181/246) completed the SE program. Of these, 97% (176/181) submitted the behavior change survey. Across all 4 clinical topics, providers who received SE reported significantly greater change in their global clinical behaviors as a result of the CME program (p-values .013 to < .001; effect size 0.7). Ninety-seven percent (175/179) requested to participate in future SE supplements to live CME courses. Eighty-six percent (156/179) agreed or strongly agreed that the SE program enhanced the impact of the live CME conference.


Online spaced education following a live CME course can significantly increase the impact of a face-to-face course on providers' self-reported global clinical behaviors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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