Physicians who participated in a study to determine their receptiveness to electronic continuing medical education (eCME) program - and online learning in general - revealed that case-based eCME has a significant impact on patient evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.

The study was conducted by I.C. Axon (a provider of computer-based learning systems) and the Department of Physician Education and Development at Kaiser Permanente, the Oakland, Calif. based managed care organization, with the assistance of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a management consulting firm.

In determining the inherent value of the case-based eCME system, physicians found the cases to be a useful activity in enhancing their clinical expertise. The study revealed that 70% of participants believe I.C. Axon's eCME system motivates adjustments in their choice of treatments for patients; 69% agree it motivates adjustments in patient evaluation; and 67% said it motivates adjustments in patient diagnoses. Furthermore, participants of the study evaluated the relevance of the cases to their clinical practice at 97.4%. Other important findings revealed:

-- 77% of participants said it increases their medical knowledge;
-- 78% said it gives insight into treatment options;
-- 87% said it confirms their current treatment choice.

When asked if they perceive Internet/online learning programs as useful in enhancing their clinical practice, 88% of participants agreed they are. Regarding the long-term use of eCME, 89% of participants said they expect to use eCME in the next 12 months.

``This study demonstrates the significant impact that online case-based learning can have in shaping the clinical expertise of healthcare professionals,'' says John Monahan, President and CEO, I.C. Axon. ``It is exciting to see the evidence demonstrating that I.C. Axon's eCME system provides effective and lasting education to healthcare professionals. The power of I.C. Axon's eCME system derives from its unique case-based design, which helps healthcare professionals retain the knowledge gained through the courseware, and is ultimately reflected in their day-to-day practices.''

``We are thrilled to be able to add another education intervention to our menu of clinical education options,'' says Carol Havens, MD, Director of Clinical Education for The Permanente Medical Group, Inc. ``We feel confident in developing additional online CME programs knowing that our physicians liked online learning and found it an effective method.''

In I.C. Axon's case-based eCME system, learners are greeted with a ``virtual waiting room'' representing different patient case scenarios relevant to their individual practices or learning goals. The cases reflect and address realistic challenges healthcare professionals face on a daily basis. Physicians are more inclined to adopt procedures and maintain knowledge through case-based learning, a concept arising from a physician's tendency to draw on personal experiences and a familiar environment to determine particular learning needs. Physicians not only seek out information based on their medical specialty and patient demographics, but also assess the future impact that any new knowledge will have on their individual practice.

The study on I.C. Axon's eCME system and the online surveys were conducted between December, 2000 and February, 2001 with physicians belonging to The Permanente Medical Group. The study's participants included 81 physicians and one nurse practitioner, with 219 cases completed. The majority of participants were over 40 years of age; 67 participants were male, and 15 were female. Participants' main specialties were internal medicine (48.78%) and family medicine (13.41%).