Benefits and limitations of the transfer online of Irish College General Practice (ICGP) continuing medical education (CME) small group learning (SGL) during the COVID pandemic: A national Delphi study.

Stephanie Dowling, Finola Minihan, Claire Mcnicholas, Laoise Byrne, John Bourke, Pat Harrold, Walter Cullen

Keywords: Continuing medical education, COVID, implementation of guidelines, small group learning

In Ireland CME-SGL has been shown to be an effective way of delivering CME and changing clinical practice.

Research questions:
This study sought to determine the benefits and limitations, as reported by GPs, of the relocation of this education from face to face to online learning during COVID.

A Delphi survey method was used to obtain a consensus opinion from a group of GPs recruited via email through their respective CME tutors. All consented to participate by email to the primary researcher (SD). The first of three rounds gathered demographic details and asked doctors to report the benefits and/or limitations of learning online in their established ICGP small groups.

Eighty eight GPs from 10 different geographical areas agreed to participate. Response rates were 72% in round one, 62.5% in round two and 64% in round three. Demographic and practice setting were consistent with those previously published for GPs attending CME-SGL. These GPs (92% consensus) reported that attending their established CME-SGL groups allowed them to discuss the practical implications of applying rapidly changing guidelines in COVID care into practice. They could discuss new local services and compare their practice with others during a time of change (94% consensus); this helped them feel less isolated (98% consensus). They reported that online meetings were less social (60% consensus), and that the informal learning that occurs before and after meetings did not take place (70% consensus). GPs would like to go back to face to face learning in CME-SGL after COVID, but would consider 1-2 online meetings in the winter months when travel is difficult (76% consensus).

GPs in established CME-SGL groups benefited from online learning as they could discuss how to adapt to rapidly changing guidelines while feeling supported and less isolated. They report that face to face meetings offer more opportunities for informal learning.

Points for discussion:
Established small group learning helps GPs to implement changing guidelines into practice

Small group learning helps GP to cope with change during COVID

Established small groups help GPs feel less isolated during COVID