Use of focus groups for identifying specialty needs of primary care physicians

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Focus groups were chosen as a needs assessment device to obtain first-hand information from primary care physicians about their interests and needs. The focus group process was used because it generally enables opportunities for discussion with immediately critical commentary, allowing participants to build on and to expand on each other's ideas. Focus groups would also provide a “triangulated” approach to our needs assessment process by having participants provide answers to questions that a previous survey had revealed. Ultimately, we were interested in the beliefs held by primary care physicians concerning their interest in specific medical topics. Knowing about similarities or differences in perspective would greatly inform our curriculum development and instructional development processes. We found a general similarity of interests among the four specialties—family physicians, general internists, pediatricians, obstetrician-gynecologists—participating in the four focus groups. There was a noticeable variety of beliefs within each specialty group. Futher, across the four focus groups, a significant overlap of opinions and ideas was observed. The focus group process, these differences, and implications for our project are discussed.

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