The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of four different strategies
designed to improve clinicians' knowledge about herbs and dietary supplements. This study
will also increase their confidence in their ability to answer patient questions about these
Study hypotheses: 1) Delivery of modules over 10 weeks will lead to better educational
outcomes than delivery of modules at one time. 2) The method of module delivery that
directly lists the modules in an email will be associated with greater improvements in
knowledge, confidence, and communication skills and greater satisfaction with the overall
curriculum than methods that involve the delivery of only links to the modules in an email.
3) Active participation in a moderated mailing list will enhance outcomes and satisfaction
with the curriculum more than non-participation or passive participation (reading the
messages of others). 4) More positive attitudes toward the use of and greater use of
computer and Internet technologies at baseline will be associated with more active
participation in the mailing list; greater use of the modules delivered through links;
greater improvements in knowledge, confidence, and communication; and more positive
attitudes about the curriculum following participation in the study.
As herbal medicine use becomes more popular, health care providers may find that patients
are asking questions about the risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine
(CAM) more frequently. It is important that providers have some knowledge about these
therapies and are familiar with resources to which they can refer patients. This study will
compare the effectiveness of four strategies used to deliver educational modules that can
increase health care providers' knowledge about herbal medicine and dietary supplements.
This study will last about 10 weeks and will enroll a variety of health care providers,
including physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, dietitians, and nurses. At study
entry, participants will be stratified by provider type. Participants will then be randomly
assigned to 1 of 4 educational delivery strategies: delivery of educational modules all at
one time directly through email, delivery of modules over 10 weeks directly through email,
delivery of modules through an email message with a link to an Internet site containing all
modules, or delivery of multiple emails over 10 weeks with links to an Internet site
containing all modules.
Each module will begin with a brief clinical scenario followed by questions to assess
knowledge, confidence about where to locate information, and the level of communication that
providers have engaged in with their patients. Participants will complete questionnaires at
study entry and at Week 10. The questionnaires will assess the use of and attitudes toward
Internet technology, motivation for participating in the course, and knowledge, attitudes,
and communication practices related to the clinical use of herbs and dietary supplements.
Participants will have the opportunity to participate in a moderated mailing list where they
can discuss CAM-related topics with other providers and read the discussions of others. In
addition, after completing the curriculum, participants will complete questionnaires about
their use of and attitudes toward the intervention they received in the study.
- Live and work in the United States
- Licensed to provide health care in the United States
- Have regular access to the Internet and an e-mail address that can be checked at
least twice weekly for at least 4 months
- Willing to complete all study assessments
- Previous enrollment in this curriculum