Needs assessment of learning outcome evaluation skills among continuing medical education providers

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In a health care environment increasingly pressured by reform efforts, the effectiveness of continuing medical education (CME) providers in designing educational methods aimed at improving physician performance and the health status of their patients, as well as in measuring the results, has been inadequate. The purpose of this study was to conduct a needs assessment of CME professionals in order to better understand these inadequacies. A 1996 survey was conducted by mail of 1600 members of the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education with a response rate of 37.5% of targeted members. There was an inverse relationship between the types of evaluation measures most frequently used (physician satisfaction with program and perceptions of enhanced professional effectiveness) and the types of evaluation measures in which professionals would like to gain new skills (physician performance and the health outcomes of their patients). Major barriers to conducting outcomes evaluations were lack of time, funding, and staffing. Barriers had been overcome by using current technology, recruiting/training staff, and securing internal or external funding. In many institutions, quality utilization review departments were also measuring educational outcomes. Few publications were reported. Identified gaps offer professional development opportunities to CME professional organizations.

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