ABSTRACT: Is it worth investing in online continuous education for healthcare staff?
Educational activities for hospital staff don’t easily match with the congestive rhythm of healthcare personnel working life. Online learning could make it easier for healthcare personnel to attend courses, but there is still uncertainty about the feasibility of using distance learning to effectively meet education goals in healthcare institutions. Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri (FSM) started an online educational program, as pilot project, in October 2010. The present study hence is aimed at evaluating the impact of this initiative (in terms of extent and intensity of healthcare staff attendance; objective and subjective effectiveness) in order to take informed decisions for the future. In 15 months, 5 elearning courses have been provided to 2261 potential users of 14 FSM hospitals, in parallel with traditional education. 1099 users from all the hospital have intensively attended the courses (58% of nurses, 50% of therapists, 44%, of technicians, 25% of physicians) for a total of 27459 CME credits. Effectiveness in terms of knowledge gain is satisfactory and subjective evaluation is good (more than 95% of satisfied users). Elearning is not appropriate for all the educational needs and is not a panacea, but the reported results point out that it may be an effective and economically convenient mean to support massive educational interventions reaching results hardly attainable with traditional education. Users should be better educated about how to exploit online education at best.