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1.  Continuous Professional Competence (CPC) for Irish paramedics and advanced paramedics: a national study 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:41.
Background
Internationally, continuing professional competence (CPC) is an increasingly important issue for all health professionals. With the imminent introduction of a CPC framework for paramedics and advanced paramedics (APs) in Ireland, this paper aims to identify factors that will inform the implementation of this CPC framework by seeking stakeholder input into the development of a CPC model for use by the regulatory body. Our secondary objective is to determine the attitudes of registrants towards CPC and what they consider as optimal educational outcomes and activities, for the purposes of CPC.
Methods
All paramedics and APs registered in Ireland (n = 1816) were invited by email to complete an anonymous on-line survey. The study instrument was designed based on CPD questionnaires used by other healthcare professions. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were performed.
Results
The overall response rate was 43% (n = 789), with 82% of APs and 38% of paramedics participating. Eighty-nine per cent agreed that registration was of personal importance; 74% agreed that evidence of CPC should be maintained and 39% believed that persistent failure to meet CPC requirements should mandate denial of registration. From a pre-determined list of activities, respondents indicated practical training scenarios (94%), cardiac re-certification (92%), e-learning supplemented by related practice (90%) and training with simulation manikins (88%) were most relevant, while e-learning alone (36%), project work (27%) and reading journal articles (24%) were least relevant.
Conclusions
Irish Paramedics and APs are supportive of CPC linked with their professional development and registration. Blended learning, involving evidence of patient contact, team-based learning and practical skills are preferred CPC activities.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-41
PMCID: PMC3943403  PMID: 24580830
Paramedics; Advanced paramedics; Continuous professional development; CPD; Continuous professional competence
2.  Continuous professional competence (CPC) for emergency medical technicians in Ireland: educational needs assessment 
Background
As in other countries, the Irish Regulator for Pre-Hospital practitioners, the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC), will introduce a Continuous Professional Competence (CPC) framework for all Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Paramedics and Advanced Paramedics (APs). This framework involves EMTs participating in regular and structured training to maintain professional competence and enable continuous professional developments. To inform the development of this framework, this study aimed to identify what EMTs consider the optimum educational outcomes and activity and their attitude towards CPC.
Methods
All EMTs registered in Ireland (n = 925) were invited via email to complete an anonymous online survey. Survey questions were designed based on Continuous Professional Development (CPD) questionnaires used by other healthcare professions. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were performed.
Results
Response rate was 43% (n = 399). 84% of participants had been registered in Ireland for less than 24 months, while 59% had been registered EMTs for more than one year. Outcomes were: evidence of CPC should be a condition for EMT registration in Ireland (95%), 78% believed that EMTs who do not maintain CPC should be denied the option to re-register. Although not required to do so at the time of survey, 69% maintained a professional portfolio and 24% had completed up to 20 hours of CPC activities in the prior 12 months. From a list of 22 proposed CPC activities, 97% stated that practical scenario-based exercises were most relevant to their role. E-learning curricula without practical components were considered irrelevant (32%), but the majority of participants (91%) welcomed access to e-learning when supplemented by related practical modules.
Conclusion
EMTs are supportive of CPC as a key part of their professional development and registration. Blended learning, which involves clinical and practical skills and e-learning, is the optimum approach.
doi:10.1186/1471-227X-13-25
PMCID: PMC3898252  PMID: 24345064
Emergency medical technicians; Continuous professional development; CPD; Blended learning; E-learning; Educational; Ambulance
3.  Generic medicines: an evaluation of the accuracy and accessibility of information available on the internet 
Background
Internationally, generic medicines are increasingly seen as a key strategy to reduce healthcare expenditure, therefore awareness and knowledge transfer regarding generic medicines are valid areas of research. Although the Internet is a frequently used source of medical information, the accuracy of material found online is variable. The aim of this study was to evaluate information provided on the Internet regarding generic medicines in terms of quality of information and readability.
Methods
Internet searches for information regarding generic medicine were completed, with a pre-defined search term, using the Google search engine, in five English-speaking geographical regions (US, UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia). Search results likely to be looked at by a searcher were collated and assessed for the quality of generic medicine-related information in the websites, using a novel customised Website Quality Assessment (WQA) tool; and for readability, using existing methods. The reproducibility of the tools between two independent reviewers was evaluated and correlations between WQA score, readability statistics and Google search engine results page ranking were assessed.
Results
Wikipedia was the highest-ranking search result in 100% of searches performed. Considerable variability of search results returned between different geographical regions was observed, including that websites identified in the Australian search generated the highest number of country specific websites; searches performed using computers with Irish, British, American and Canadian IP addresses appear to be more similar to each other than the google.com search performed in Australia; and the Canadian google.ca results show a notable difference from any of the other searches. Of the 24 websites assessed, none scored a perfect WQA score. Notably, strong correlation was seen between WQA and readability scores and ranking on google.com search results.
Conclusions
This novel evaluation of websites providing information on generic medicines showed that, of the websites likely to be seen by a searcher, none demonstrated a combination of scoring highly on quality of information (as evinced by WQA score) and readability. Therefore, there is a gap in online knowledge provision on this topic which, if filled by a website designed using the WQA tool developed in this study, has an improved likelihood of ranking highly in google.com search results.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-115
PMCID: PMC3851567  PMID: 24099099
Generic medicine; Internet; Medical information; Patient education; Google; Readability
4.  A Method for the Design and Development of Medical or Health Care Information Websites to Optimize Search Engine Results Page Rankings on Google 
Background
The Internet is a widely used source of information for patients searching for medical/health care information. While many studies have assessed existing medical/health care information on the Internet, relatively few have examined methods for design and delivery of such websites, particularly those aimed at the general public.
Objective
This study describes a method of evaluating material for new medical/health care websites, or for assessing those already in existence, which is correlated with higher rankings on Google's Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Methods
A website quality assessment (WQA) tool was developed using criteria related to the quality of the information to be contained in the website in addition to an assessment of the readability of the text. This was retrospectively applied to assess existing websites that provide information about generic medicines. The reproducibility of the WQA tool and its predictive validity were assessed in this study.
Results
The WQA tool demonstrated very high reproducibility (intraclass correlation coefficient=0.95) between 2 independent users. A moderate to strong correlation was found between WQA scores and rankings on Google SERPs. Analogous correlations were seen between rankings and readability of websites as determined by Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scores.
Conclusions
The use of the WQA tool developed in this study is recommended as part of the design phase of a medical or health care information provision website, along with assessment of readability of the material to be used. This may ensure that the website performs better on Google searches. The tool can also be used retrospectively to make improvements to existing websites, thus, potentially enabling better Google search result positions without incurring the costs associated with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals or paid promotion.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2632
PMCID: PMC3758043  PMID: 23981848
health care information; patient education; Google; Internet; medical informatics; generic drugs; website development; quality assessment
5.  Psychosocial Interventions for Alcohol Use Among Problem Drug Users: Protocol for a Feasibility Study in Primary Care 
JMIR Research Protocols  2013;2(2):e26.
Background
Alcohol use is an important issue among problem drug users. Although screening and brief intervention (SBI) are effective in reducing problem alcohol use in primary care, no research has examined this issue among problem drug users.
Objective
The objective of this study is to determine if a complex intervention including SBI for problem alcohol use among problem drug users is feasible and acceptable in practice. This study also aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention in reducing the proportion of patients with problem alcohol use.
Methods
Psychosocial intervention for alcohol use among problem drug users (PINTA) is a pilot feasibility study of a complex intervention comprising SBI for problem alcohol use among problem drug users with cluster randomization at the level of general practice, integrated qualitative process evaluation, and involving general practices in two socioeconomically deprived regions. Practices (N=16) will be eligible to participate if they are registered to prescribe methadone and/or at least 10 patients of the practice are currently receiving addiction treatment. Patient must meet the following inclusion criteria to participate in this study: 18 years of age or older, receiving addiction treatment/care (eg, methadone), or known to be a problem drug user. This study is based on a complex intervention supporting SBI for problem alcohol use among problem drug users (experimental group) compared to an “assessment-only” control group. Control practices will be provided with a delayed intervention after follow-up. Primary outcomes of the study are feasibility and acceptability of the intervention to patients and practitioners. Secondary outcome includes the effectiveness of the intervention on care process (documented rates of SBI) and outcome (proportion of patients with problem alcohol use at the follow-up). A stratified random sampling method will be used to select general practices based on the level of training for providing addiction-related care and geographical area. In this study, general practitioners and practice staff, researchers, and trainers will not be blinded to treatment, but patients and remote randomizers will be unaware of the treatment.
Results
This study is ongoing and a protocol system is being developed for the study. This study may inform future research among the high-risk population of problem drug users by providing initial indications as to whether psychosocial interventions for problem alcohol use are feasible, acceptable, and also effective among problem drug users attending primary care.
Conclusions
This is the first study to examine the feasibility and acceptability of complex intervention in primary care to enhance alcohol SBI among problem drug users. Results of this study will inform future research among this high-risk population and guide policy and service development locally and internationally.
doi:10.2196/resprot.2678
PMCID: PMC3742410  PMID: 23912883
complex intervention; screening; brief intervention; alcohol; methadone maintenance; primary health care; general practice; substance-related disorders
6.  Psychosocial interventions to reduce alcohol consumption in concurrent problem alcohol and illicit drug users: Cochrane Reviewa 
Systematic Reviews  2013;2:3.
Background
Problem alcohol use is common among illicit drug users and is associated with adverse health outcomes. It is also an important factor in poor prognosis among drug users with hepatitis C virus (HCV) as it impacts progression to hepatic cirrhosis or opiate overdose in opioid users. The aim of this systematic review was to assess the effects of psychosocial interventions for problem alcohol use in adult illicit drug users with concurrent problem alcohol use (principally, problem drug users of opiates and stimulants).
Methods
We searched the following databases (November 2011): Cochrane Library, PUBMED, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and reference list of articles. We also searched conference proceedings and online registers of clinical trials. Two reviewers independently assessed risk of bias and extracted data from included randomized controlled trials.
Results
Four studies (594 participants) were included in this review. Half of the trials were rated as having a high or unclear risk of bias. The four studies considered six different psychosocial interventions grouped into four comparisons: 1) cognitive-behavioral coping skills training versus 12-step facilitation (N = 41), 2) brief intervention versus treatment as usual (N = 110), 3) hepatitis health promotion versus motivational interviewing (N = 256), and 4) brief motivational intervention versus assessment-only group (N = 187). Differences between studies precluded any pooling of data. Findings are described for each trial individually. Most findings were not statistically significant except for comparison 2: decreased alcohol use at three months (risk ratio (RR) 0.32; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19 to 0.54) and nine months (RR 0.16; 95% CI 0.08 to 0.33) in the treatment-as-usual group and comparison 4: reduced alcohol use in the brief motivational intervention (RR 1.67; 95% CI 1.08 to 2.60).
Conclusions
No conclusion can be made because of the paucity of the data and the low quality of the retrieved studies.
doi:10.1186/2046-4053-2-3
PMCID: PMC3564788  PMID: 23311684
Alcohol; Brief intervention; Illicit drugs; Opioids; Systematic review; Screening; Methadone
7.  A review of the differences and similarities between generic drugs and their originator counterparts, including economic benefits associated with usage of generic medicines, using Ireland as a case study 
Generic medicines are those where patent protection has expired, and which may be produced by manufacturers other than the innovator company. Use of generic medicines has been increasing in recent years, primarily as a cost saving measure in healthcare provision. Generic medicines are typically 20 to 90% cheaper than originator equivalents. Our objective is to provide a high-level description of what generic medicines are and how they differ, at a regulatory and legislative level, from originator medicines. We describe the current and historical regulation of medicines in the world’s two main pharmaceutical markets, in addition to the similarities, as well as the differences, between generics and their originator equivalents including the reasons for the cost differences seen between originator and generic medicines. Ireland is currently poised to introduce generic substitution and reference pricing. This article refers to this situation as an exemplar of a national system on the cusp of significant health policy change, and specifically details Ireland’s history with usage of generic medicines and how the proposed changes could affect healthcare provision.
doi:10.1186/2050-6511-14-1
PMCID: PMC3579676  PMID: 23289757
Generic; Medicine; Drug; Pharmaceutical; Biosimilar; Prescribing; Healthcare; Economics; Ireland
8.  Children in hospital in Ireland - what do they eat and what do they weigh: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:491.
Background
Overweight and obesity is a growing problem in Ireland. Many parents are unaware when their child is overweight or obese. Our objectives were to examine parents’ perceptions of a healthy diet and their children’s BMI; and to evaluate the food offered to children in our paediatric in-patient unit.
Findings
A retrospective questionnaire was distributed to 95 patients and their families admitted over one month. Seventy-eight had BMI values calculated (42 males, 36 females). Twenty-one children (26.9%) were overweight/obese: 14/21 parents (66.7%) thought their child had a normal weight. Sixty percent of children served dinner in the hospital were given fried potatoes. Four had fruit/vegetables. Forty-six parents brought food into hospital, of these 14 brought purchased food.
Conclusions
This study highlights the problem of child obesity in Ireland and parental underestimation of this problem. The nutritional value of food served to children in hospital needs to be improved and hospital admissions used as opportunities to promote healthy eating habits.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-491
PMCID: PMC3441275  PMID: 22954320
Overweight; Obesity; Children; Hospital; Nutrition

Results 1-8 (8)