A ‘SMART’ way to determine treatment goals in pharmacotherapy education

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Determining treatment goals is an important part of the treatment decision-making process, but medical students are not trained in a structural way on how to define these goals. ‘SMART’ criteria are widely used in non-medical professions for determining goals and may improve treatment goal setting. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of implementation of SMART criteria on medical students' ability to set treatment goals and to analyze the effects on treatment choice and monitoring.


We performed a prospective, randomized controlled minimal intervention study with one control and two intervention groups (WHO group and SMART group). Second year medical students had to complete a WHO six step treatment plan for four written case reports of patients with asthma. The treatment plans were assessed using a standard scoring sheet developed by a Delphi procedure among respiratory physicians from all eight university medical centres in the Netherlands.


A total of 251 second year medical students participated. The SMART group had significantly higher scores for setting treatment goals than the WHO and control groups (68.5 % vs. 29.6 % and 30.8 %, respectively, both P < 0.001). The SMART group also had significantly better scores for treatment monitoring than the WHO and control groups (34.2 % vs. 19.3 % and 24.6 %, respectively, both P < 0.001). There were no between group differences in treatment choice. Regardless of the study group, better setting of treatment goals was associated with better treatment monitoring, an association not reported earlier.


SMART criteria improve the setting of treatment goals and treatment monitoring.

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