John Wiecha, an assistant professor and director of predoctoral education in the School of Medicine department of family medicine, recently received a grant from the Physicians’ Foundation for Health Systems Excellence (PFHSE) to develop an innovative online approach for physicians’ continuing medical education.
The grant, which will total $396,025 over three years, is part of the PFHSE’s 2006 Excellence in Practice grant program. Wiecha is one of 15 (from a pool of 200) grant winners, who will work on projects to improve quality of care, patient safety, and physician education.
Continuing medical education, a requirement for all practicing physicians, can be a problem for those who have trouble leaving their practices for meetings and lectures, according to Wiecha. “The distance education approach tends to be more efficient,” he says. “So we developed some new ways to provide the continuing professional education using distance education methods, and it really engages [doctors] more in the material.”
With the help of the PFHSE grant, Wiecha will hone his idea of case-based learning, in which a physician would view online lectures and presentations and then examine a simulated medical chart of a patient’s history and a video of an actor playing the patient. From that information, the physician writes on a discussion board how he or she would treat the patient’s problem, and discuss it with colleagues. “They’re learning from each other,” says Wiecha, “as well as learning from applying the information to the case.”
Wiecha’s method, which will be geared to small-scale primary care physicians throughout New England and will focus on issues such as asthma, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and congestive heart failure, also requires that doctors apply the information from the course daily and report their experiences on the discussion boards.