"Outcome-Tested" Education

In the health care professions most continuing education offerings simply present information for the learner to consider and decide on their own whether and how, if at all, to apply it in their practice. The actual impact of this traditional approach to continuing education on practice is rarely studied directly. This also applies to many programs for patients and family members.

At IPCI we are about "outcome-tested education" in the field of palliative care. Rather than focusing simply on "learning outcomes", we focus on real world impact on actual outcomes that matter. For professionals this includes practice  behaviors that are implemented in the work setting and can help to move the field of integrative palliative care forward. For patients and families it means measurable improvements in well-being and quality of life.

The National Cancer Institute sponsored the development and evaluation of our new certificate program on Integrative Therapies in Hospice and Palliative Care. Part of the process of research and development of this unique program involved the development and testing of a new instrument, the Integrative Practice Assessment, to identify and quantify the use of specific actions that practitioners take in the conduct of their practice, that represent the application of integrative care.

Using this approach to outcome evaluation, we conducted a randomized controlled trial with 170 physicians, nurses, social workers and other palliative care professionals. Results indicated that this program led to highly significant changes in practice behaviors that promote integrative care including:

  • 78% increase in confidence understanding integrative therapies — safety precautions, evidence-based recommendations, explaining the modalities to others.
  • 68% increase in practice behaviors promoting integrative care — direct actions taken with patients, advocacy and organizational change strategies.

Publication of study results is forthcoming, and will mark this as the first online continuing education with documented impact on practice behaviors that promote integrative care.

Our Touch, Caring and Cancer program for patients and family members is another example of outcome-tested education. This program was also developed through NCI-sponsored research and was found to benefit both cancer patients and their caregivers. Learn more here.

The Integrative Practice Assessment (IPA)

The IPA is a new scale developed by IPCI in NCI-sponsored research for use by health care providers and organizations. The IPA can be used to assess provider self-efficacy as well as practice behaviors that support implementation of integrative care. Key concepts addressed by the scale include:

Self-efficacy in...

  • Understanding safety precautions & contraindications
  • Making evidence-informed recommendations
  • Communicating with patients, families and colleagues

Practice behaviors that promote integrative care through...

  • Direct actions with patients and clients
  • Advocacy to promote integrative therapies
  • Organizational culture change