Educating physicians through advertising: Using the brief summary to teach about pharmaceutical use

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Two studies were conducted testing the educational value of an enhancement of the brief summary of prescribing information that is incorporated into pharmaceutical ads. Called a Clinical Challenge (CC), the enhancement contains: (I) a clinical problem of importance to primary care physicians; (2) the solution to the problem; and (3) reference to pertinent information in the brief summary revealing the basis for the problem's solution. The first study, looking for evidence that the enhancement on its own could increase physician knowledge, found a 112 standard deviation increase in knowledge compared with the ad alone. The second study, comparing conventional ads with ads incorporating the CC, as also associated with about a 112 standard deviation increase in physician knowledge. The study also showed: (1) that doctors need no coaching on how to learn from Clinical Challenges; and (2) that increased physician knowledge was limited to information highlighted in the Clinical Challenges. Finally, the doctors studied reported that they appreciated the Clinical Challenges' “practical” approach.

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