Researchers at RAND Corporation say an online course developed in collaboration with 3C Institute is as effective as in-person instruction for training clinicians in evidence-based treatments. The study, published online by the journal Psychiatric Services, compared face-to-face training with online training for Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy to treat bipolar disorder.
“Our findings suggest that e-learning may be able to provide an efficient and scalable approach to training large numbers of clinicians in new evidence-based treatments,” said Dr. Bradley D. Stein, the study’s lead author, a practicing psychiatrist, and a senior scientist at RAND. “This may be one way to improve patient care and help solve the problem of how to get new treatments to the front-line mental health workforce.”
Researchers worked with five community outpatient mental health centers and trained thirty-six clinicians: three of the centers participated in an online learning collaborative, and clinicians received twelve hours of self-paced online training plus telephone supervision and online access to experts; clinicians in the other two centers received twelve hours of traditional in-person training over two days with local in-person supervision.
Researchers then asked 136 patients from each of the centers about the treatment they received and found that clinicians trained online used the new skills just as frequently as those trained through in-person instruction. In addition, both groups of clinicians increased their use of the skills at six months and at a year after completing training.
“A goal of the trial was to do this in a way that would be easily replicated in real-world practice,” Stein said. “The amount of time spent in training was the same for both groups. There could be some efficiency through e-learning savings in travel time and expenses for clinical staff or for trainers.”
Dr. Stein and Dr. Ellen Frank, distinguished professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, contracted 3C’s services in personalized e-learning and implementation support to develop and distribute the training, which is available for free at www.ipsrt.org. You can read more about the study on the RAND website.