A pragmatic randomised controlled trial of SAFMEDS to produce fluency in interpretation of electrocardiograms

Rabbitt, Louise, Byrne, Dara, O’Connor, Paul, Gorecka, Miroslawa, Jacobsen, Alan and Lydon, Sinéad (2020) A pragmatic randomised controlled trial of SAFMEDS to produce fluency in interpretation of electrocardiograms. BMC Medical Education, 20 (1). ISSN 1472-6920


Abstract Background

SAFMEDS (Say-All-Fast-Minute-Every-Day-Shuffled) is a flashcard-type behavioural instructional methodology, involving one-minute learning trials that function both as practice and assessment, used to facilitate the development of fluency in a behaviour.

The primary research question was whether SAFMEDS engenders improvement in performance beyond that conferred by usual teaching. A secondary research question was whether SAFMEDS is an effective method of producing fluency in Electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation.

A pilot study was conducted to determine sample size required to power the pragmatic randomised controlled trial (RCT). For the subsequent RCT, participants were randomly assigned to a “usual teaching” control group ( n = 14) or the SAFMEDS intervention group ( n = 13), with the recognition of 15 cardiac conditions on ECGs (e.g., atrial fibrillation, complete heart block) targeted. Intervention group participants’ performance was tracked over eight weeks as they worked towards achieving the fluency criterion. Percentage accuracy in ECG interpretation was assessed at baseline and post-test for both groups. An ANCOVA was conducted to assess for differences in the performance of the intervention and control group at post-test while controlling for the baseline performance of participants. At post-test, the numbers of participants achieving fluency within the intervention group was examined.

A large effect size of SAFMEDS (partial η 2 = .67) was identified when controlling for the effects of baseline performance. At post-test, the intervention group significantly outperformed ( M = 61.5%; SD = 12.1%) the control group ( M = 31.6%; SD = 12.5%, p < .001). In total, 7 of 13 intervention group participants achieved fluency. Participants required an average of 51.9 one-minute trials ( SD = 18.8) to achieve fluency.

SAFMEDS offers a useful adjunct to usual teaching within medical education. Further research could assess whether learning retains, is stable, and transfers to clinical practice.

View Item