Factors Influencing Physicians' Selection of Continuous Professional Development Activities: A Cross-Specialty National Survey

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We sought to understand what influences physicians' decisions about participation in continuous professional development (CPD) activities, and how often physicians engage in specific CPD activities.


From September 2015 to April 2016, we administered a survey to 4648 randomly sampled licensed US physicians. Survey items addressed perceived barriers to CPD, factors that might influence participation in four prototypical CPD activities (reading an article, or completing a local activity, online course, or far-away course), and frequency of CPD engagement.


Nine hundred eighty-eight (21.6%) physicians responded. The most important barriers were time (mean [SD] 3.5 [1.3], 1 = not important, 5 = extremely important) and cost (2.9 [1.3]). In prioritizing factors influencing participation in four prototypical CPD activities, topical relevance consistently had the highest average rank. Quality of content and time to complete the activity were also frequently selected. Over the past 3 years, most physicians reported having participated in patient-focused learning and self-directed learning on a weekly basis; quality improvement and local continuing medical education (CME) activities several times per year; online learning, on-site courses, and national board-related activities a few times per year; and interprofessional learning less than once per year. Physicians believed that they ought to engage more often in all of these activities except board-related activities. They would like CME credit for these activities much more often than currently obtained.


The reasons physicians select a given CPD activity vary by activity, but invariably include topic and quality of content. Physicians want CME credit for the CPD activities they are already doing.

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