Outcomes Measurement in a National Multimedia Continuing Medical Education Program: Challenges and Opportunities

Jeff C. Huffman, Tim Peterson, Charissa F. Andreotti, Lee Baer, Seth Soloway, Robert J. Birnbaum


Background: Continuing medical education (CME) programs face many challenges when they aspire to document improvements in clinician knowledge and behavior. Although the literature is increasing on the measurement of clinically meaningful educational outcomes in CME, such outcomes have not been systematically evaluated in a large, nationwide CME program.

Methods: The Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy (MGH-PA) provides CME to a large, diverse nationwide audience. In its 4 years of existence, assessment of learning at MGH-PA events has progressed from simple assessment of isolated facts to more complex evaluations involving assessments of clinically relevant outcomes. We have systematically tracked the development of our outcomes program since the inception of the MGH-PA.

Results: We identified multiple challenges to both the design and practical execution of a plan to measure clinically meaningful educational outcomes in a large-scale nationwide CME program. To address these challenges, we have attempted to apply several innovative approaches to improve the educational rigor of the measures and rates of learner participation. These approaches have led to incremental and substantial improvements in the assessment of clinically meaningful learning among MGH-PA members, although significant barriers to the program’s optimal implementation remain.

Conclusions: Focused approaches to addressing the challenges of educational-outcomes assessment in a large CME program yielded mostly positive results. Additional programmatic adjustments are planned to address ongoing barriers to a full and rigorous evaluation of educational outcomes.

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