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Effect of an educational toolkit on quality of care: a pragmatic cluster randomized trial

Shah BR, Bhattacharyya O, Yu CH, Mamdani MM, Parsons JA, Straus SE, Zwarenstein M. PLoS Med. 2014; 11(2):e1001588.

Background – Printed educational materials for clinician education are one of the most commonly used approaches for quality improvement. The objective of this pragmatic cluster-randomized trial was to evaluate the effectiveness of an educational toolkit focusing on cardiovascular disease screening and risk reduction in people with diabetes.

Methods and Findings ─ All 933,789 people aged ≥40 years with diagnosed diabetes in Ontario, Canada were studied using population-level administrative databases, with additional clinical outcome data collected from a random sample of 1,592 high risk patients. Family practices were randomly assigned to receive the educational toolkit in June 2009 (intervention group) or May 2010 (control group). The primary outcome in the administrative data study, death or non-fatal myocardial infarction, occurred in 11,736 (2.5%) patients in the intervention group and 11,536 (2.5%) in the control group (p=0.77). The primary outcome in the clinical data study, use of a statin, occurred in 700 (88.1%) patients in the intervention group and 725 (90.1%) in the control group (p=0.26). Pre-specified secondary outcomes, including other clinical events, processes of care and measures of risk factor control, were also not improved by the intervention.

Conclusions ─ The educational toolkit did not improve quality of care or cardiovascular outcomes in a population with diabetes. Despite being relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, printed educational materials were not effective. The study highlights the need for a rigorous and scientifically-based approach to the development, dissemination and evaluation of quality improvement interventions.

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Keywords: Diabetes Health care evaluation