Diabetes in rural towns: effectiveness of continuing education and feedback for healthcare providers in altering diabetes outcomes at a population level: protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial
BACKGROUND: Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing chronic diseases internationally. The health complications associated with type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed, or improved via early diagnosis and effective management. This research aims to examine the impact of a primarily web-based educational intervention on the diabetes care provided by general practitioners (GPs) in rural areas, and subsequent patient outcomes. A population-level approach to outcome assessment is used, via whole-town de-identified pathology records. METHODS/DESIGN: The study uses a cluster randomised controlled trial with rural communities as the unit of analysis. Towns from four Australian states were selected and matched on factors including rurality, population size, proportion of the population who were Indigenous Australians, and socio-economic status. Eleven pairs of towns from two states were suitable for the trial, and one town from each pair was randomised to the experimental group. GPs in the towns allocated to the experimental group are offered an intervention package comprising education on best practice diabetes care via an on-line active learning module, a moderated discussion forum, access to targeted and specialist advice through an on-line request form, and town-based performance feedback on diabetes monitoring and outcomes. The package is offered via repeated direct mail. DISCUSSION: The benefits of the outcomes of the trial are described along with the challenges and limitations associated with the methodology. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611000553976.