Monday, September 30, 2019

Free, Online Training Programs May Decrease Stigma Toward Patients With SUD

Free, online training courses may improve the ability of health care workers in low-resource settings to screen individuals for substance use disorders and provide treatment, according to a report in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

“Our findings contribute to the literature demonstrating that web-based training is an efficient, cost-effective, and fast-emerging means of delivering education and can be as effective in decreasing stigma as the best-practice, in-person forms of training, with the advantage of being more efficient and accessible,” wrote Veronic Clair, M.D., Ph.D., of the Africa Mental Health Foundation and University of British Columbia in Vancouver and colleagues.

Clair and colleagues surveyed 97 health care workers across 14 health care facilities in Kenya who took one of two online-based training courses. This group included 58 lay health care workers who took a substance use screening course and 39 primary care physicians who took a substance use disorders management course. Both courses were developed by the Africa Mental Health Foundation and, an online portal offering free, accredited educational courses.

Both courses consist of modules that cover the following topics: how to screen for substance use disorder, address stigma related to substance use, and communicate with patients and their families. The management course includes a module on best practices for treating substance use disorder in primary care settings. Each trainee was also assigned a local mentor (a trained psychologist or physician) they could reach out to in person, via phone, and/or online for assistance.

The overall completion rate for both courses was 50%, which the authors noted far exceeds the 8% completion average typically seen for open online courses. The course completers scored high on the final exams for the screening and management courses (average scores of 90% and 88%, respectively).

“The training was acceptable and feasible and was shown in our study to be effective in improving not only [participants’] knowledge, but also skills and attitudes across a wide range of ages, education levels, socioeconomic and professional backgrounds, facility types (from primary care centers to outpatient hospital departments), and locations (large urban centers, small urban areas, and rural settings),” Clair and colleagues wrote.

The participants who completed the courses reported significant decreases in their negative attitudes toward patients with substance use disorders (except for alcohol use disorder). Most participants said they would prefer to take another course over a traditional classroom-based course, and all said that they would recommend these particular courses to their peers.

For related information, see the Psychiatric Services article “Testing a Web-Based, Trained-Peer Model to Build Capacity for Evidence-Based Practices in Community Mental Health Systems.”

(Image: iStock/Andrey Shevchuk)

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