Comparison of an interactive with a didactic educational intervention for improving the evidence-based practice knowledge of occupational therapists in the public health sector in South Africa: a randomised controlled trial

Background: Despite efforts to identify effective interventions to implement evidence-based practice (EBP), uncertainty remains. Few existing studies involve occupational therapists or resource-constrained contexts. This study aimed to determine whether an interactive educational intervention (IE) was more effective than a didactic educational intervention (DE) in improving EBP knowledge, attitudes and behaviour at 12 weeks. Methods: A matched pairs design, randomised controlled trial was conducted in the Western Cape of South Africa. Occupational therapists employed by the Department of Health were randomised using matched-pair stratification by type (clinician or manager) and knowledge score. Allocation to an IE or a DE was by coin-tossing. A self-report questionnaire (measuring objective knowledge and subjective attitudes) and audit checklist (measuring objective behaviour) were completed at baseline and 12 weeks. The primary outcome was EBP knowledge at 12 weeks while secondary outcomes were attitudes and behaviour at 12 weeks. Data collection occurred at participants’ places of employment. Audit raters were blinded, but participants and the provider could not be blinded. Results: Twenty-one of 28 pairs reported outcomes, but due to incomplete data for two participants, 19 pairs were included in the analysis. There was a median increase of 1.0 points (95% CI = -4.0, 1.0) in the IE for the primary outcome (knowledge) compared with the DE, but this difference was not significant (P = 0.098). There were no significant differences on any of the attitude subscale scores. The median 12-week audit score was 8.6 points higher in the IE (95% CI = -7.7, 27.0) but this was not significant (P = 0.196). Within-group analyses showed significant increases in knowledge in both groups (IE: T = 4.0, P <0.001; DE: T = 12.0, P = 0.002) but no significant differences in attitudes or behaviour. Conclusions: The results suggest that the interventions had similar outcomes at 12 weeks and that the interactive component had little additional effect.