It takes a village to educate a clinician

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There's no better way to reinforce learning, some say, than sharing ideas with colleagues. Putting a so-called community of practice on the web—a notion that hasn't been widely explored—can help overcome some of the hurdles of shared learning, which often depends on parties being in the same locale.

That's what Boston University did with its virtual community of practice. “Through electronic means, we were able to support individuals at remote and disparate locations through a performance-improvement activity,” said Julie White, MS, administrative director, CME, BU School of Medicine.

The activity earned the 2008 award for outstanding industry-supported certified CME activity from the Alliance for CME. BU developed, hosted and maintained the website for the community of practice/performance improvement component of the initiative, aimed at enhancing primary care clinicians' ability to diagnose and treat depression. The site included a mini library of links to model programs and to other websites tracking relevant research. Regular emails from BU staff, as well as four faculty-moderated teleconferences, fueled the community.

Logistics for the non-PI portion of the activity—namely a monograph and two mostly didactic teleconferences with Q&A—were handled by Haymarket Medical Education, a division of Haymarket Media Inc. (MM&M's publisher). Wyeth provided the grant.

Thirty-nine participants finished the PI activity, White reported, and chart reviews showed they boosted their rate of screening from 35% pre-action plan to 60% post.

BU has another virtual community of practice initiative in store (on COPD), but, “We would love to do one on depression again,” White said. “There are many more people we would like to try to reach.” 

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