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New online cystic fibrosis course the first of its kind


The Welch family sits with Michael Pena, MD, pediatric pulmonary fellow.

Physicians across the United States are learning more about how to accurately diagnose cystic fibrosis (CF) in newborns thanks to a national education course designed and launched by the Indiana University School of Medicine Division of Continuing Medical Education (CME). Funded and endorsed by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, IU School of Medicine’s CME offering is the first nationwide online course focused on cystic fibrosis newborn screening and diagnosis.

Michelle Howenstine, MD. Pictured at top of page, the Welch family with Michael Pena, MD, Pediatric Pulmonary Fellow

Authored by cystic fibrosis experts from around the country, the course leverages new diagnosis guidelines published in early 2017 in response to discrepancies in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry, which is used to track prevalence, clinical features and short-term outcomes of infants screening positive for cystic fibrosis. The data helps inform treatment and management protocols.

“A study in 2015 revealed that a significant number of CF diagnoses entered into the foundation’s national registry are inaccurate, and while it’s not known if errors are related to diagnosis or actual entry into the registry, it uncovered a need to provide additional clinical education to care teams about how to correctly diagnose CF,” said Michelle Howenstine, MD, IU School of Medicine senior associate dean for graduate medical education and CME, and physician expert in pediatric cystic fibrosis.

“We owe it to families of infants screening positive for CF to deliver the correct diagnosis.”

As a starting point for course development, IU School of Medicine CME distributed a 30-question quiz to more than 110 cystic fibrosis care providers that was designed to identify gaps in clinical education related to diagnosis. Using the quiz results, the team developed Course One: Newborn Screening and Diagnosis, a five-module program that launched in September and covers topics such as cystic fibrosis genetics, diagnosis and management, and the current state of newborn screening. So far, 200 learners representing 79 pediatric centers nationwide have either completed the course or are in the process of taking it. To date, results of pre- and post-course quizzes reveal an average of 10 percent overall improvement in understanding of key course concepts.

“The course is designed to provide educational support for an accurate diagnosis that leads to changes in physician performance and quality improvements in our process of screening and diagnosing cystic fibrosis in infants across the country,” Howenstine said.

IU School of Medicine CME plans to launch course two, which will address diagnosis and management of cystic fibrosis from birth through the preschool years, in early 2019.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

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