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1.  Outcomes of Irish graduate entry medical student engagement with self-directed learning of clinical skills 
BMC Medical Education  2015;15:21.
Existing literature is mixed as to whether self-directed learning (SDL) delivers improvements in knowledge, skills or attitudes of medical students compared with traditional learning methods. This study aimed to determine whether there is an association between engagement in SDL and student performance in clinical examinations, the factors that influence student engagement with SDL in clinical skills, and student perceptions of SDL.
A retrospective analysis of electronic records of student bookings of SDL sessions from 2008 to 2010 was performed for students in the pre-clinical years of an Irish Graduate Entry Medical programme to assess their level of engagement with SDL. The extent to which this engagement influenced their performance in subsequent summative examinations was evaluated. A cross-sectional survey of students across the four years of the programme was also conducted to determine student perceptions of SDL and the factors that affect engagement.
The level of engagement with SDL decreased over time from 95% of first years in 2008 to 49% of first years in 2010. There was no significant difference between the median exam performance for any clinical skills tested by level of engagement (none, one or more sessions) except for basic life support in first year (p =0.024). The main reason for engaging with SDL was to practice a clinical skill prior to assessment and the majority of respondents agreed that SDL sessions had improved their performance of the specific clinical skills being practised.
Students viewed SDL as an opportunity to practise skills prior to assessment but there were no significant differences in subsequent summative assessment by the level of engagement for most clinical skills.
PMCID: PMC4336507
Clinical skills; Self-directed learning; Graduate entry medicine; Student engagement
2.  Concordance between DSM-IV and DSM-5 criteria for delirium diagnosis in a pooled database of 768 prospectively evaluated patients using the delirium rating scale-revised-98 
BMC Medicine  2014;12(1):164.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual fifth edition (DSM-5) provides new criteria for delirium diagnosis. We examined delirium diagnosis using these new criteria compared with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual fourth edition (DSM-IV) in a large dataset of patients assessed for delirium and related presentations.
Patient data (n = 768) from six prospectively collected cohorts, clinically assessed using DSM-IV and the Delirium Rating Scale-Revised-98 (DRS-R98), were pooled. Post hoc application of DRS-R98 item scores were used to rate DSM-5 criteria. ‘Strict’ and ‘relaxed’ DSM-5 criteria to ascertain delirium were compared to rates determined by DSM-IV.
Using DSM-IV by clinical assessment, delirium was found in 510/768 patients (66%). Strict DSM-5 criteria categorized 158 as delirious including 155 (30%) with DSM-IV delirium, whereas relaxed DSM-5 criteria identified 466 as delirious, including 455 (89%) diagnosed by DSM-IV (P <0.001). The concordance between the different diagnostic methods was: 53% (ĸ = 0.22) between DSM-IV and the strict DSM-5, 91% (ĸ = 0.82) between the DSM-IV and relaxed DSM-5 criteria and 60% (ĸ = 0.29) between the strict versus relaxed DSM-5 criteria. Only 155 cases were identified as delirium by all three approaches. The 55 (11%) patients with DSM-IV delirium who were not rated as delirious by relaxed criteria had lower mean DRS-R98 total scores than those rated as delirious (13.7 ± 3.9 versus 23.7 ± 6.0; P <0.001). Conversely, mean DRS-R98 score (21.1 ± 6.4) for the 70% not rated as delirious by strict DSM-5 criteria was consistent with suggested cutoff scores for full syndromal delirium. Only 11 cases met DSM-5 criteria that were not deemed to have DSM-IV delirium.
The concordance between DSM-IV and the new DSM-5 delirium criteria varies considerably depending on the interpretation of criteria. Overly-strict adherence for some new text details in DSM-5 criteria would reduce the number of delirium cases diagnosed; however, a more ‘relaxed’ approach renders DSM-5 criteria comparable to DSM-IV with minimal impact on their actual application and is thus recommended.
PMCID: PMC4207319  PMID: 25266390
Delirium; Classification; Diagnosis; Cognition; Neurocognitive disorders; Dementia
3.  From biocontrol to cancer, probiotics and beyond 
Bioengineered  2012;4(4):185-190.
This invited commentary covers the period 1997–2012 and has seen changes in terminology that progressed from “basic” and “applied” to “translational” research. In the context of Bioengineered, these changes map readily onto the processes of identifying microbial characteristics appropriate for specific applications, isolation of suitable cultures, strain or genome manipulation and exploitation of these or their metabolomes across a range of settings.
PMCID: PMC3728187  PMID: 23247300
biocontrol; probiotic; cancer; medical device; industry-led; research strategy
4.  Continuous Professional Competence (CPC) for Irish paramedics and advanced paramedics: a national study 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:41.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3943403  PMID: 24580830
Paramedics; Advanced paramedics; Continuous professional development; CPD; Continuous professional competence
5.  Continuous professional competence (CPC) for emergency medical technicians in Ireland: educational needs assessment 
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3898252  PMID: 24345064
Emergency medical technicians; Continuous professional development; CPD; Blended learning; E-learning; Educational; Ambulance
6.  Generic medicines: an evaluation of the accuracy and accessibility of information available on the internet 
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.
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.
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 search performed in Australia; and the Canadian 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 search results.
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 search results.
PMCID: PMC3851567  PMID: 24099099
Generic medicine; Internet; Medical information; Patient education; Google; Readability
7.  A Method for the Design and Development of Medical or Health Care Information Websites to Optimize Search Engine Results Page Rankings on Google 
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3758043  PMID: 23981848
health care information; patient education; Google; Internet; medical informatics; generic drugs; website development; quality assessment
8.  Psychosocial Interventions for Alcohol Use Among Problem Drug Users: Protocol for a Feasibility Study in Primary Care 
JMIR Research Protocols  2013;2(2):e26.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3742410  PMID: 23912883
complex intervention; screening; brief intervention; alcohol; methadone maintenance; primary health care; general practice; substance-related disorders
9.  Psychosocial interventions to reduce alcohol consumption in concurrent problem alcohol and illicit drug users: Cochrane Reviewa 
Systematic Reviews  2013;2:3.
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).
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.
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).
No conclusion can be made because of the paucity of the data and the low quality of the retrieved studies.
PMCID: PMC3564788  PMID: 23311684
Alcohol; Brief intervention; Illicit drugs; Opioids; Systematic review; Screening; Methadone
10.  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.
PMCID: PMC3579676  PMID: 23289757
Generic; Medicine; Drug; Pharmaceutical; Biosimilar; Prescribing; Healthcare; Economics; Ireland
11.  Children in hospital in Ireland - what do they eat and what do they weigh: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:491.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3441275  PMID: 22954320
Overweight; Obesity; Children; Hospital; Nutrition

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