OBJECTIVE - To determine whether the integration of an automated electronic clinical portfolio into clinical clerkships can improve the quality of feedback given to students on their patient write-ups and the quality of students' write-ups.
DESIGN - The authors conducted a single-blinded, randomized controlled study of an electronic clinical portfolio that automatically collects all students' clinical notes and notifies their teachers (attending and resident physicians) via e-mail. Third-year medical students were randomized to use the electronic portfolio or traditional paper means. Teachers in the portfolio group provided feedback directly on the student's write-up using a web-based application. Teachers in the control group provided feedback directly on the student's write-up by writing in the margins of the paper. Outcomes were teacher and student assessment of the frequency and quality of feedback on write-ups, expert assessment of the quality of student write-ups at the end of the clerkship, and participant assessment of the value of the electronic portfolio system.
RESULTS - Teachers reported giving more frequent and detailed feedback using the portfolio system (p = 0.01). Seventy percent of students who used the portfolio system, versus 39% of students in the control group (p = 0.001), reported receiving feedback on more than half of their write-ups. Write-ups of portfolio students were rated of similar quality to write-ups of control students. Teachers and students agreed that the system was a valuable teaching tool and easy to use.
CONCLUSIONS - An electronic clinical portfolio that automatically collects students' clinical notes is associated with improved teacher feedback on write-ups and similar quality of write-ups.