New study evaluates online tobacco dependence treatment programs

Training for health care professionals in evidence-based cessation techniques has been proven to boost their patients’ quit rates. Online training programs are promising, but until now it has been difficult to evaluate which are the most effective.

A recent study published in the Journal of Internet Medical Research and co-authored by J. Taylor Hays and Katie Kemper of Global Bridges, together with colleagues, evaluated 39 online tobacco dependence treatment courses using a validated rubric and identified opportunities for improvement in many currently-available courses. Researchers then shared findings with course developers to encourage further quality improvement.

“Evidence-based treatment for tobacco addiction is well established, but poorly implemented,” commented Peter Selby, M.D., chief of the Addictions Program and clinician scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and lead author of the study. “Online education is one way to reach health care practitioners across the globe to spread this knowledge. To that end, we need to make sure that online courses are accessible and follow best practices in online education, given the importance of this topic. This paper describes how we evaluated the myriad of online courses and provided guidance to existing and future course developers, as well. “

“Distance learning opportunities will be the best way to grow capacity for tobacco dependence training in the future,” noted J. Taylor Hays, M.D., chair of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and of Global Bridges and a co-author of the study. “Improving the quality of these learning opportunities should be a high priority for organizations developing distance learning. Our study suggests we of the tobacco dependence treatment community need to pay much closer attention to best practices in designing learning tools that meet a high bar for excellence—our learners deserve the best.”