BRIEF REPORTS

Integrating Quality Improvement and Community Engagement Education: Curricular Evaluation of Resident Population Health Training

Jarrett Sell, MD | Timothy D. Riley, MD | Erin L. Miller

Fam Med. 2022;54(8):634-639.

DOI: 10.22454/FamMed.2022.637933

Abstract

Background and Objectives: The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires all residents be trained in population health, but the most effective training strategies to impact care of patients and populations are not well established. The purpose of this study is to assess resident self-efficacy and expected application of population management skills through iterative experiential, longitudinal, team-based training in the office and community settings.

Methods: Using a prospective longitudinal curricular evaluation, we surveyed residents at a single institution from 2014-2020, evaluating self-efficacy in population health skills as well as perceived impact on patient care and future practice. We collected surveys before and after participating in a 3-year, longitudinal, team-based, experiential population health curriculum that integrates clinic-based quality improvement and community engagement projects.

Results: Fifty-nine of 68 residents (87%) responded to the presurvey, and 42/56 (75%) responded to the postsurvey. We observed significant increases in resident self-efficacy in all population health skills. All respondents reported finding common population health skills that were applicable in both office and community settings; 81% reported care of their continuity clinic patients changed because of taking part in the curriculum. Finally, 94% of respondents reported the intention to use population health skills and incorporate quality improvement (75%) and community engagement (100%) in future practice.

Conclusions: Teaching population health management skills in both office and community settings allows residents to integrate and apply these skills across settings and may enhance their use in patient care and future practice.


Population health management is an essential component of the triple aim, which seeks to improve US health care through improving patient care experience, health of populations, and cost of health care.1 The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) competency-based Milestones,2–4 Common Program Requirements,5,6 and Clinical Learning Environment Review7–9 recognize the importance of resident population health education. New strategies are needed to train physicians to lower health care costs and address the health care needs of communities. While there is consistent agreement regarding the importance of population health in residency training, the most effective teaching strategies and how these skills translate into clinical practice are less studied.

Research in residency training has shown that population health skills can be enhanced through a variety of teaching methods including a flipped classroom,10 didactics,11–14 workshops,15,16 block rotations,17,18 and real-world practice.13,19 Current research has shown that residents value population health training that has a clear vision, valued resident contribution, dedicated time, faculty support, a structured curriculum, involves interprofessional teamwork, is experiential, longitudinal, and is horizontally integrated with the clinic and larger institution.19–30 The majority of population health residency training literature has focused on resident quality improvement (QI) efforts within the clinic setting or hospital, with less research in education of residents in the community.

Community engagement (CE), is defined as “the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the well-being of those people.”31 Training residents in this discipline can address community health needs, allow residents to reach at-risk populations, expand the breadth of interdisciplinary teamwork, and increase exposure to social determinants of health.32,33 Both CE and QI are founded on population management skills, including use of population data and plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles.34 Offering residents longitudinal, experiential training in these skills via both community and clinic settings presents an opportunity to reinforce the broad applicability of these skills in current and future practice.

The purpose of this study is to assess resident self-efficacy and expected application of population management skills through iterative, experiential, longitudinal, team-based training in office and community settings.

Methods

This study was a prospective, longitudinal curricular evaluation of residents from one residency program at a single institution from 2014-2020. We collected pre- and postsurveys at orientation and before graduation. Two resident cohorts had classes of 12 residents each, with eight residents per class in each of the subsequent cohorts. Demographics that describe the residency program for residents with graduation dates between 2017-2022 are detailed in Table 1.

All residents participated in a required longitudinal curriculum that integrated QI and CE in team-based, experiential learning. Residents learned and used PDSA cycles, leadership skills, and community assessment through longitudinal projects both in the clinic and in partnership with organizations in the community. Table 2 presents a description and timeline of the curriculum.

We invited all residents to voluntarily participate in the survey evaluating self-efficacy—defined as someone’s belief in their capacity to execute certain behaviors35,36—before and after completing the educational program. We structured questions to assess the degree to which learners found application for population health training in their clinical practice and future careers in accordance with the evaluation framework, based on the Kirkpatrick Model, for teaching population health in medical education proposed by Johnson, et al.37 Self-efficacy has been shown to be a strong predictor of behavior change (Kirkpatrick level 3),38 and has been used to assess likelihood of changing future practice among clinicians.36,39 We performed data collection using REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture).40 We deidentified data for descriptive analysis. We used descriptive anlysis due to small sample size. Univariate statistical tests compared characteristics of residents who completed the survey. We used Student t tests to compare continuous characteristics and we used c2 tests to compare binary and categorical characteristics. The Penn State College of Medicine Institutional Review Board deemed this study exempt (STUDY#00002431).

Results

We collected survey responses annually from 2014 through 2020. Fifty-nine of 68 (87%) responded to the presurvey, and 42/56 (75%) responded to the postsurvey.

Table 3 summarizes resident self-efficacy in population health skills assessed at the start and end of residency. Significant increases were seen in the percentage of residents expressing confidence in all population health skills.

All respondents reported finding common population health skills that were applicable in both office and community settings, as shown in Table 4. Most (81%) reported that the care of continuity clinic patients had changed due to taking part in the curriculum. Finally, most respondents reported the intention to use population health skills and incorporate QI and CE in future practice.

Discussion

Our data support the effectiveness of this integrated curriculum in enhancing resident self-efficacy with population health skills, with a majority of respondents reporting that the curriculum has application to current and future practice. These results are in keeping with existing literature suggesting exposure to QI in training leads to increased implementation of QI into practice.41 All respondents found common population health skills that were applicable in both the office and community settings. Previous work by Knox et al42 demonstrated improved competency in related milestones and satisfaction among residents, but the translation of these skills between settings is a novel contribution to curricula in this area.

Limitations of this study include a small cohort at a single suburban program and may not be generalizable to other programs and settings. During the 3-year training experience, multiple factors outside this curriculum may have also influenced the participants’ responses.

Future studies may explore how exposure to a synergized QI and CE curriculum directly affects patient care outcomes, changes future practice, and impacts future population health behaviors.

Teaching population health management skills in both office and community settings allows residents to integrate and apply these skills across settings and may enhance their use in patient care and future practice.

Acknowledgments

Arthur Berg, PhD, provided statistical support for the project.

Financial Support: This work was partially supported by grant funding from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Primary Care Training and Enhancement 1T0BHP30010-01-11: A Campaign for Primary Care: Transforming Medical Education Today, to Develop the Leaders of Tomorrow, 2016-21.

Presentations: This work has been previously presented in the following settings:Poster at the EdVenture Conference in Hershey, PA in April, 2020 and Poster at STFM Annual Conference, May 2021.

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Lead Author

Jarrett Sell, MD

Affiliations: Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State Health Hershey Medical Center

Co-Authors

Timothy D. Riley, MD - Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State Health Hershey Medical Center

Erin L. Miller - Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State Health Hershey Medical Center

Corresponding Author

Jarrett Sell, MD

Correspondence: Dr Jarrett Sell, Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State Health Hershey Medical Center, 500 University Dr, Hershey, PA 17033. 717-232-5443. Fax: 717-232-4553

Email: jsell@pennstatehealth.psu.edu

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