Cochrane Summaries

Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health.

Educational outreach visits to change health care professional care for patients

O'Brien MA, Rogers S, Jamtvedt G, Oxman AD, Odgaard-Jensen J, Kristoffersen DT, Forsetlund L, Bainbridge D, Freemantle N, Davis D, Haynes RB, Harvey E
Published Online: 
8 October 2008

There have been many ways developed to improve how health care professionals care for their patients. One way to improve how health care professionals practice is to provide educational outreach visits. Trained people visit clinicians where they practice and provide them with information to change how they practice. The information given may include feedback about their performance, or may be based on overcoming obstacles to change. This type of face-to-face visit has also been referred to as university-based educational detailing, academic detailing, and educational visiting.

This review found 69 studies that evaluated educational outreach visits. Educational outreach visits appear to improve the care delivered to patients. When trying to change how health care professionals prescribe medications, outreach visits consistently provide small changes in prescribing, which might be potentially important when hundreds of patients are affected. For other types of professional practice, such as providing screening tests, outreach visits provide small to moderate changes in practice. But the effects really varied and why it varied could not be explained.