OBJECTIVES: To determine whether a Web-based educational intervention improves emergency physicians' knowledge about bioterrorism and to survey physicians' knowledge and sources of information on bioterrorism.
METHODS: Prospective randomized controlled trial using pre- and postintervention testing in hospitals. Participants were general and pediatric emergency medicine attending physicians, fellows, and fourth-year emergency medicine residents. All participants completed a pretest and attended a lecture on bioterrorism. Participants were then randomized to the Web intervention group that received continuous access to a bioterrorism educational Web site with weekly exposure to case scenarios of diseases due to biological agents, or the control group. Participants were retested after one and six months and surveyed to identify their sources of information and assess their knowledge.
RESULTS: Sixty-three physicians completed the pretest. There was no difference in mean +/- standard deviation (SD) pretest scores between Web intervention (45% +/- 10%) and control (44% +/- 10%) groups (mean difference: 1.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = -6.7% to 2.9%). There was no significant difference between pre- and posttest scores among groups at one month (Web intervention 48% +/- 10% vs. control 45% +/- 10%; mean difference: 3.3%; 95% CI = -8.5% to 2.0%) and six months (Web intervention 51% +/- 8% vs. control 47% +/- 9%; mean difference: 3.8%; 95% CI = -8.8% to 1.2%). More than 60% of physicians cited media reports as their primary source of information on bioterrorism and believed that their knowledge of bioterrorism was limited after one month.
CONCLUSIONS: Providing physicians information on bioterrorism through simulated cases and continuous access to an educational Web site does not increase knowledge of bioterrorism. Physicians are more likely to use media reports for their primary source of information.