Educational Technologies for Physician Continuous Professional Development: A National Survey

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To determine the past experiences with, current use of, and anticipated use of online learning and simulation-based education among practicing U.S. physicians, and how findings vary by age.


The authors surveyed 4,648 randomly sampled board-certified U.S. physicians, September 2015 to April 2016, using Internet-based and paper questionnaires. Survey items (some optional) addressed past and current technology usage, perceived technology effectiveness, and anticipated future use of specific technology innovations.


Of 988 respondents, 444 completed optional items. Of these, 429/442 (97.1%) had used online learning and 372/442 (84.2%) had used simulation-based education in the past five years. Desire for more online learning was modest (mean [standard deviation], 4.6 [1.5]; 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree), as was desire for more simulation-based education (4.2 [1.7]). Both online learning and simulation-based education were perceived as effective (5.2 [1.4]; 5.0 [1.4]). Physicians believed they possess adequate skills for online learning (5.8 [1.2]) and that point-of-care learning is vital to effective patient care (5.3 [1.3]). Only 39.0% used objective performance data to guide their learning choices, although 64.6% agreed that such information would be useful. The highest-rated innovations included a central repository for listing educational opportunities and tracking continuing education credits, an app to award credit for answering patient-focused questions, 5-minute and 20-minute clinical updates, and an e-mailed “question of the week.” Responses to most survey items were similar across age groups.


Practicing physicians generally seem receptive and prepared to use a variety of educational technologies, regardless of age.

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