Dissemination of changes in the clinical evidence base has evolved with short courses now leading the way, but how do we ensure accuracy and quality?
In October 2020 an editorial was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine which challenged the conventional assumption that journals are the main way that information is disseminated to clinicians. Through the use of an international survey of over 2,000 physiotherapists, the authors of the paper demonstrated that this is not the case, rather short form courses and conversations with colleagues were the most commonly used methods of improving clinical practice. You can read our summary of this article by clicking the link below.
Courses Improve Clinical Practice More Than Journal Articles
The authors rightly highlighted that the results of the large scale survey suggest that journals and articles are no longer achieving their original aim of translating research into practice and therefore a change in how evidence is disseminated requires innovation. They go further by suggesting that journal publishers and researchers can play a central role in this innovation by combining their expertise in research, appraisal of evidence and understanding of the peer-review process to create a new standard of accredited and peer-reviewed short professional courses.
The authors argue that this is required, and fast, as short courses vary greatly in terms of quality, accuracy and relevance of information and evidence shared. The creators and presenters of the courses might not always have the best interest of patients or colleagues in mind and rather focus on profit over quality. Therefore they argue that short courses should be reviewed by those who are financially independent from the course and have expertise in quality review with publishers and researchers being best placed to take up this role. But is this right, considering the current state of the peer-review process should a different approach be taken?
Publishing more than they are reviewing? Reject! – Dirk Lindebaum and Peter Jordan 2021.
It’s well documented that the peer review process is fraught with bias and partisan views including peer reviewers giving articles in the same field as their own a hard review and rejecting them for publication. Furthermore, it’s often the case that when an article is rejected by one journal they will submit to another until it is accepted. Until these issues are addressed then surely another approach is required?
Physioplus’ Approach To Course Review
The reason I am sharing this with you again now is that this article recently re-entered discussion with the Physioplus team when we were critically evaluating our course review process. We recognise what the authors say in their editorial and completely agree that short courses are the way forward and aren’t always transparent in how they are created as well as the quality assurance process they go through.
At Physioplus we publish courses created by independent clinical experts working in countries from all around the world and the quality assurance process begins when we meet with the course instructor to discuss the course outline and aim of the course. Once the course has been created a Physioplus Team member (who is also a clinician with skills in evidence appraisal) reviews and edits the content with the ability to remove questionable content or information which does not have sufficient evidence.
The Physioplus Team are independent in the review process, there are no financial implications for the review team and their main objective is to assure quality, edit the video and content associated with the course including making sure content maps to quizzes and additional content. They also make sure the latest evidence is used in every course and ensure each course has at least 5 references from the past 5 years published in peer-reviewed journals.
Once a course has been published course feedback is reviewed and adapted or corrected when warranted. Furthermore, the courses are reviewed by external accrediting organisations using specific criteria. This additional check of quality adds the external oversight we need to ensure transparency wherever possible.
Summary of My Thoughts
I agree with the editorial I summarised at the start of this blog. There are too many private courses that have questionable content. I have had the experience of Course Instructors only selecting references without really evaluating the evidence they select to support their course content. Too often Instructors google a statement and find a reference to support their argument without realising the evidence they’ve selected actually refutes what they are saying! The steps we take at Physioplus means our audience can trust our content furthermore we offer our course instructors editorial oversight which means they get something back too.