Research protocol abstract:

Randomised controlled trial of online continuing education for health professionals to improve the management of chronic fatigue syndrome: a study protocol, by Sophie H Li, Carolina X Sandler, Sally M Casson, Joanne Cassar, Tina Bogg, Andrew R Lloyd, Benjamin K Barry in BMJ Open vol 7 issue 5 [16 May 2017]


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a serious and debilitating illness that affects between 0.2%–2.6% of the world’s population. Although there is level 1 evidence of the benefit of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET) for some people with CFS, uptake of these interventions is low or at best untimely. This can be partly attributed to poor clinician awareness and knowledge of CFS and related CBT and GET interventions. This trial aims to evaluate the effect of participation in an online education programme, compared with a wait-list control group, on allied health professionals’ knowledge about evidence-based CFS interventions and their levels of confidence to engage in the dissemination of these interventions.


A randomised controlled trial consisting of 180 consenting allied health professionals will be conducted. Participants will be randomised into an intervention group (n=90) that will receive access to the online education programme, or a wait-list control group (n=90). The primary outcomes will be: 1) knowledge and clinical reasoning skills regarding CFS and its management, measured at baseline, post-intervention and follow-up, and 2) self-reported confidence in knowledge and clinical reasoning skills related to CFS. Secondary outcomes include retention of knowledge and satisfaction with the online education programme. The influence of the education programme on clinical practice behaviour, and self-reported success in the management of people with CFS, will also be assessed in a cohort study design with participants from the intervention and control groups combined.


The study protocol has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee at The University of New South Wales (approval number HC16419). Results will be disseminated via peer-reviewed journal articles and presentations at scientific conferences and meetings.

Trial registration ACTRN12616000296437.

Strengths and limitations of this study

  • Randomised controlled trial.
  • Objective and subjective assessment measures.
  • Translation of evidence-based interventions to practice.
  • Engaging multiple allied health professions.
  • Follow-up measurements made on a cohort rather than on intervention and control groups.
  • Actual impact on practice is assessed only by clinician report and in the short term.
  • Trial recruitment is confined to Australia.
  • Customised assessments for this study have not previously been validated.
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