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EBM on tablets!
Using Tablet Computers to Teach Evidence-Based Medicine to Pediatric Residents: A Prospective Study Soma DB et al. Academic Medicine 2013; 13(6):546-550.
Reviewed by Kyra Len


What was the study question?
Can tablet computers improve evidence-based medicine (EBM) knowledge, skills and behavior?

How was the study done?
Pediatric residents at the Mayo Clinic were given a tablet computer and participated in a series of laboratory sessions that taught them to use their tablet computer and apps on the tablet related to EBM. The authors used a validated tool on MedEdPORTAL for teaching EBM. Residents completed evaluations and surveys before and after the end of the 5-month educational intervention. Attending pediatric hospitalists were also given a survey that contained questions about how residents used tablet computers and applied EBM principles, and the effect of those on patient care.

What were the results?
Thirty-eight (14 PGY-1, 14 PGY-2, 10 PGY-3) pediatric residents and all 7 of their attending pediatric hospitalists participated. The post-intervention test scores showed improvements in the residents' knowledge of EBM (median score of 32.5 pre and 53.0 post-intervention, p<0.0001). There was self-reported improvement in 6 of the 6 EBM Skills and 4 out of the 7 EBM behaviors. After intervention, attending hospitalists noted an improvement in 5 out of the 7 resident behaviors, such as using their iPads to answer clinical questions. Hospitalists indicated that residents did not have increased knowledge in regard to EBM and did not practice EBM more. However, this was based on their recollection alone.

What are the implications of these findings?
This study demonstrates an approach to teaching EBM that utilizes the technology of a tablet computer. While they did not compare the tablet computer approach to other methods of teaching EBM, it shows that the tablet computer approach enhanced the residents' ability to understand and utilize EBM. In the near future, it is expected that more of our learners, residents and medical students will be using tablet computers for their education; it seems ideal to develop curriculum around this tool.

Editor's note: Access to technology has fundamentally changed the purpose of much of medical education. Since the facts about various diseases are readily available online, whether by tablet, smart phone, desktop computer, or Google glasses(!), we need to focus our efforts on teaching our learners the PROCESS of thinking through clinical situations and identifying what information is needed to solve the problem. Teaching EBM by training people to access appropriate online resources using the available technology seems to be a perfect example of this new paradigm (LL).

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