Do clinical practice education groups result in sustained change in GP prescribing?
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BACKGROUND: Concern has been expressed at the poor uptake of evidence into clinical practice. This is despite the fact that continuing education is an embedded feature of quality assurance in general practice. There are a variety of clinical practice education methods available for dissemination of new evidence. Recent systematic reviews indicate that the effectiveness of these different strategies is extremely variable. OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to determine whether a peer-led small group education pilot programme used to promote rational GP prescribing is an effective tool in changing practice when added to prescribing audit and feedback, academic detailing and educational bulletins, and to determine whether any effect seen decays over time. METHODS: A retrospective analysis of a controlled trial of a small group education strategy with 24 month follow-up was carried out. The setting was an independent GPs association (IPA) of 230 GPs in the Christchurch New Zealand urban area. All intervention and control group GPs were already receiving prescribing audit and feedback, academic detailing and educational bulletins. The intervention group were the first 52 GPs to respond to an invitation to pilot the project. Two control groups were used, one group who joined the pilot later and a second group which included all other GPs in the IPA. The main outcome measures were targeted prescribing data for 12 months before and 24 months after each of four education sessions. RESULTS: An effect in the expected direction was seen in six of the eight key messages studied. This effect was statistically significant for five of the eight messages studied. The effect size varied between 7 and 40%. Where a positive effect was seen, the effect decayed with time but persisted to a significant level for 6-24 months of observation. CONCLUSION: The results support a positive effect of the education strategy on prescribing behaviour in the intervention group for most outcomes measured. The effect seen is statistically significant, sustained and is in addition to any effect of the other pharmaceutical educational initiatives already undertaken by the IPA.
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