Lectures top doctors' list of CME choices

The least effective format for learning is the most popular, one study says.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Jan. 26, 2004

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The study is a small one, but it reflects what many concede is a larger truth: Doctors prefer to go to lectures to earn their continuing medical education credits, even though research shows the format results in little change in physician behavior.

Lectures appeal to Richard Viken, MD, director of family medicine residents at the University of Texas Health Center in Tyler.

"I prefer a live body speaking to me," he said. That's why he favors lectures when he looks for ways to garner CME credit.

Coming in a close second for Dr. Viken is taped CME lectures, which he listens to during his work commute. "There's an intangible value in seeing your colleagues," Dr. Viken said. "As a group, we're gregarious and like to get together and share information."

Dr. Viken didn't take part in the study, "Continuing Medical Education: What Delivery Format Do Physicians Prefer?" published in the July 2003 issue of Journal of Continuing Education for the Health Professions. But he does practice in one of the four towns on which the study focused.

The study, done through the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, looked at physicians in San Angelo, Harlingen, Tyler and Lubbock -- four rural areas of Texas with high smoking rates.

Physicians were offered free CME on how to help prevent smoking and how to help smokers quit. They were offered live lectures and videotapes or Internet-based training in an effort to remove the common CME attendance barriers of time and convenience.

We have a winner

Live lectures won hands down, even though some physicians had to drive 80 miles to attend the lecture-dinner events. Out of the 4,061 physicians mailed brochures, 205 chose to participate; 183 attended the live presentation, 10 watched the CME videotape and 12 completed the Internet course.

Nancy Stancic, PhD, lead author of the study and a behavior science research manager at University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, speculated that there were several reasons for this.

While the study looked only at format preference, not the reason for the selection, Dr. Stancic said the social aspect of lectures was likely a big draw.

"Part of it is seeing friends, getting away from the office," Dr. Stancic said. "People in general like to get together with friends and colleagues and have a nice dinner."

Of all the CME formats, it's well documented that lectures are the least effective in changing physician behavior. If CME providers want doctors to actually learn something, she said, combining the appeal of lectures with interactive learning would be more effective.

"A way to learn better in this format would be to introduce more interactive participation instead of physicians just sitting back and listening to a presentation," Dr. Stancic said. "The thing we need to keep in mind is that CME isn't going to go away. We should use that time with physicians more efficiently without giving up the camaraderie of the lecture."

Dr. Stancic said lectures would have a greater chance of changing physician behavior if they included activities, such as asking the physicians to practice smoking cessation counseling on each other in small groups.

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External links

"Continuing Medical Education: What Delivery Format Do Physicians Prefer?" Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, July 2003 (link)

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