With managers facing up to the challenges posed by reform, alongside the “do more, better, for less” mantra of the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention agenda, the NHS is eager to find ways to further focus clinicians on the need to drive through improvements in patient care and outcomes.

The importance of educating clinicians, and empowering them in such uncertain times, is critical to ensuring the NHS’s pressing current challenges are met, says Simon Grime, head of healthcare at the online medical professionals network doctors.net.uk.

“While it matters that health managers are signed up to deliver on QIPP, those on the frontline are integral. It’s down to the clinicians to deliver the benefits.

“In the current climate of rapid structural change it’s critical that we make this as easy as possible, providing them with the knowledge and tools to implement best practice rapidly and effectively.”

By way of example, healthcare acquired infections (HCAIs) are one of the major risks to patients and an area which unnecessarily costs the NHS many millions of pounds. As a result, it is the responsibility of all healthcare professionals to ensure appropriate measures are taken to prevent them. Doctors.net.uk was recently asked by the Department of Health to provide an education solution for their HCAI team.

The first objective was to develop online educational modules to provide practical advice for doctors, in order to provide cleaner, safer care and drive down the rate of HCAI. Secondly, they aimed to reach and engage with doctors working in hospitals in England with specific training, achieving completion of 1,500 modules during a pilot scheme and 6,000 for the full roll out. 

The third objective was to evaluate the user experience and educational outcomes of the material and finally, to measure the intention to change behaviour following interaction with the modules.

The training content was authored by a team of medical writers and clinicians according to the educational objectives specified by the inspector of microbiology and infection control for England, Professor Brian Duerden. The programme was then promoted to clinicians across all key secondary care specialities through the doctors.net.uk channel.

A full digital communications plan was developed to reach the selected doctor audience, including creation and set-up of targeted activity, newsfeeds, forums, podcasts, e-mail contacts, polls and intelligent cross-marketing activity.

For the pilot, the target of 1,500 modules was completed and exceeded in just 22 days, while for the full roll-out the target of 6,000 modules was completed in six months. Pass rates for both modules was 99 per cent.

In the first three months, 20,945 doctors interacted with the disease area of the online resources a total 40,221 times and there was widespread adoption with little resistance. 

97 percent of doctors said they would modify their clinical practice after completing the modules and the creation of a proven and scalable model was achieved.

The potential cost of delivering this training to doctors through face-to-face classroom methods can be conservatively estimated at £150 per doctor, yet the cost of one-to-one engagement with the online programme was a fraction of this. Added to this is the environmental benefit of keeping 7,420 doctors away from the roads, and the positive impact on patient care from keeping doctors on the wards.

Finally, and perhaps of greatest importance, there were also early indications of reductions in deaths and morbidity and in prolonged stays in hospitals.