Using Clinical Questions Asked by Primary Care Providers Through eConsults to Inform Continuing Professional Development

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Introduction:Continuing professional development (CPD) offerings should address the educational needs of health care providers. Innovative programs, such as electronic consultations (eConsults), provide unique educational opportunities for practice-based needs assessment. The purpose of this study is to assess whether CPD offerings match the needs of physicians by coding and comparing session content to clinical questions asked through eConsults.Methods:This study analyzes questions asked by primary care providers between July 2011 and January 2015 using a service that allows specialists to provide consultation over a secure web-based server. The content of these questions was compared with the CPD courses offered in the area in which these primary care providers are practicing over a similar period (2012–2014). The clinical questions were categorized by the content area. The percentage of questions asked about each content area was calculated for each of the 12 specialties consulted. CPD course offerings were categorized using the same list of content areas. Percentage of minutes dedicated to each content area was calculated for each specialty. The percentage of questions asked and the percentage of CPD course minutes for each content area were compared.Results:There were numerous congruencies and discrepancies between the proportion of questions asked about a given content area and the CPD minutes dedicated to it.Discussion:Traditional needs assessment may underestimate the need to address topics that are frequently the subject of eConsults. Planners should recognize eConsult questions as a valuable source of practice-associated challenges that can identify professional development needs of physicians.

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