Introduction: There is a need to provide practicing physicians with training on the recognition and management of intimate partner violence (IPV). Online continuing medical education (CME) could help meet this need, but there is little information on the costs and effectiveness of promoting online CME to physicians. This lack of information may discourage IPV training efforts and the use of online CME in general.
Methods: We promoted an interactive, multimedia, online IPV CME program, which offered free CME credit, to 92,000 California physicians for 24 months. We collected data on user satisfaction, the costs of different promotional strategies, and self-reported user referral source. We evaluated California physician awareness of the promotion via telephone surveys.
Results: Over 2 years, the CME program was used by 1869 California physicians (2% of market), who rated the program's overall quality highly (4.52 on a 1-5 scale; 5 = excellent). The average promotional cost per physician user was $75. Direct mail was the most effective strategy, costing $143 each for 821 users. E-promotion via search engine advertising and e-mail solicitation had less reach, but was more cost efficient ($30-$80 per user). Strategies with no direct cost, such as notices in professional newsletters, accounted for 31% (578) of physician users. Phone surveys found that 24% of California physicians were aware of the online IPV CME program after 18 months of promotion.
Discussion: Promoting online CME, even well-received free CME, to busy community physicians requires resources, in this case at least $75 per physician reached. The effective use of promotional resources needs to be considered when developing social marketing strategies to improve community physician practices. Organizations with an interest in promoting online training might consider the use of e-promotion techniques along with conventional promotion strategies.