A review of continuing education of health workers: Virtual education compared to traditional education

Author(s): Cintya Perera

Purpose: to compare the effectiveness of virtual education versus traditional education, by means of a literature review, in the continuing education of health workers, in order to improve quality of care. Methods: a literature review was carried out using the descriptors in Health Sciences and the term continuing education in MeSH and DeCS. In Social Sciences, the UNESCO Thesaurus, Traditional Education, was used. For the literature search, the Boolean operator AND was used, in the following database: BVS, PubMed, Cochrane Library, Science direct, Scielo, Medigraphic, Lilacs and Epistemonikos. Fifty-three articles were identified, including randomized studies, systematic reviews and descriptive studies; 45 were selected and 23 were analyzed based on titles, abstract, objective, methodology, results and conclusions. A critical reading was performed using the appropriate tools for each design type, based on the Spanish Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASPe), to obtain the best available evidence. Results: the two studies with the highest level of evidence and a high strength of recommendation were both randomized double-blind clinical trials, and were classified as CTFPHC level of evidence 1 and strength of recommendation A, suggesting that the type of education should be adapted to the needs of health workers. Conclusions: depending on the curriculum and the contents of each course, an education mode should be selected based on their advantages and disadvantages, as well as in the application of future investigations reflecting the impact of CE on health workers, i.e., feasibility, financial sustainability, viability, long-term results and cost-benefit analysis, for health care organizations. Regarding the improvement of the quality of health care, more evidence is needed on the impact on patient safety. Furthermore, prospective studies are needed to explore its application in different healthcare professions, as well as in procedures, techniques, theoretical and practical skills, and diagnostic methods.