Background: Physicians are continuously engaging in continuing medical education (CME) activities. Whether CME activities actually improve their knowledge and whether multiple media, instructional techniques, and exposures are better than single experiences are questions that are still under discussion.
Methods: The Johns Hopkins Evidence-based Practice Center for Healthcare Research and Quality conducted a systematic review of the effectiveness of CME (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Evidence Report) from which the guideline panel used 28 (+/- 2) studies to answer these questions about improvements in knowledge. The studies were selected based on the presence of an adequate control group from an initial pool of 136 studies on CME.
Results: Despite the heterogeneity of the studies reviewed and the low quality of the evidence, the results from the majority of the studies (79%) showed that CME activities were associated with improvements in physician knowledge.
Conclusions: The evidence gathered about the use of media and instructional techniques and the frequency of exposure suggests that multimedia, multiple instructional techniques, and multiple exposures be used whenever possible in CME. Future studies of CME should include assessment of applied knowledge, and should incorporate programmatic and collaborative studies of CME.