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CME: ACCP Evidence-Based Educational Guidelines |

The Role of Audience Characteristics and External Factors in Continuing Medical Education and Physician Change: Effectiveness of Continuing Medical Education: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Educational Guidelines

Mary Martin Lowe, PhD; Nancy Bennett, PhD; Alejandro Aparicio, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (Dr. Lowe), Chicago, IL; Harvard Medical School-Massachusetts General Hospital (Dr. Bennett), Boston, MA; and the American Medical Association (Dr. Aparicio), Chicago, IL.

Correspondence to: Mary Martin Lowe, PhD, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, 515 N State St, Ste 1801, Chicago, IL 60654; e-mail: Mlowe@accme.org


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/misc/reprints.shtml).


Chest. 2009;135(3_suppl):56S-61S. doi:10.1378/chest.08-2519
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Published online

Background:  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Evidence Report identified and assessed audience characteristics (internal factors) and external factors that influence the effectiveness of continuing medical education (CME) in changing physician behavior.

Methods:  Thirteen studies examined a series of CME audience characteristics (internal factors), and six studies looked at external factors to reinforce the effects of CME in changing behavior.

Results:  With regard to CME audience characteristics, the 13 studies examined age, gender, practice setting, years in practice, specialty, foreign vs US medical graduate, country of practice, personal motivation, nonmonetary rewards and motivations, learning satisfaction, and knowledge enhancement. With regard to the external characteristics, the six studies looked at the role of regulation, state licensing boards, professional boards, hospital credentialing, external audits, monetary and financial rewards, academic advancement, provision of tools, public demand and expectations, and CME credit. No consistent findings were identified.

Conclusions:  The AHRQ Evidence Report provides no conclusions about the ways that internal or external factors influence CME effectiveness in changing physician behavior. However, given what is known about how individuals approach learning, it is likely that internal factors play an important role in the design of effective CME. Regulatory and professional organizations are providing new structures, mandates, and recommendations for CME activities that influence the way CME providers design and present activities, supporting a role that is not yet clear for external factors. More research is needed to understand the impact of these factors in enhancing the effectiveness of CME.


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