Impact of a Continuing Medical Education Program on Physician Knowledge about Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: Analysis of an Educational Outcomes Initiative

Theodore O. Bruno, Kristin Rand, Stacy Miller, Paul W. Noble


Background: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and usually fatal lung disease. As a result of the nonspecific nature of the clinical symptoms and the absence of reliable biomarkers or specific diagnostic tests, IPF is often either misdiagnosed or unrecognized until it has reached an advanced stage. The Pulmonary Fibrosis Identification: Lessons for Optimizing Treatment (PILOT™) program is a national continuing medical education (CME) initiative designed to provide physicians with the knowledge and tools to facilitate an earlier diagnosis and informed decision-making regarding patient management.

Method: We conducted 84 US continuing medical education (CME) dinner activities from March to December 2004 to determine whether such a live peer-to-peer format would increase physician knowledge regarding the early diagnosis and management of patients with IPF. A total of 576 learners, composed mostly of local pulmonologists, participated in these activities. A CME educational module consisting of slides and case studies focusing on the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and clinical management of IPF was presented by 22 faculty members who were trained on the subject material by members of the educational steering committee. The main outcome parameter was the change in knowledge measured by the percentage of correct responses on a validated peer-reviewed 14-question testing tool administered immediately before and after the CME activity.

Results: 423 learners (73.4%) had paired measurements of knowledge on the pre and posttests administered. In this primarily pulmonologist study population, test scores increased from a mean ( ± SD) of 61% ( ± 15%) at baseline to 82% ( ± 17%) following completion of the program. The absolute change from baseline of +21% was statistically significant (95% [confidence interval], 19% to 22%; P < .001). On linear regression analysis, the change in test score was inversely related to pretest score (P < .0001) and log of the population density at the study site (P = .0009) and directly related to the instructor (P < .0001). The change in test score was independent of gender, test group, and region of the country.

Conclusions: A CME dinner activity was effective in increasing physician knowledge regarding the early and accurate diagnosis of IPF. Follow-up studies are in process to determine how this added knowledge translates into a change in physician competence or performance.

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