Background: The traditional needs assessment used in developing continuing medical education programs typically relies on surveying physicians and tends to only capture perceived learning needs. Instead, using tools available in electronic medical record systems to perform a clinical audit on a physician's practice highlights physician-specific practice patterns.
Aim: The purpose of this study was to test the feasibility of implementing an electronic clinical audit needs assessment process for family physicians in Canada.
Method: A clinical audit of 10 preventative care interventions and 10 chronic disease interventions was performed on family physician practices in Alberta, Canada. The physicians used the results from the audit to produce personalized learning needs, which were then translated into educational programming.
Results: A total of 26 family practices and 4489 patient records were audited. Documented completion rates for interventions ranged from 13% for ensuring a patient's tetanus vaccine is current to 97% of pregnant patients receiving the recommended prenatal vitamins.
Conclusions: Electronic medical record-based needs assessments may provide a better basis for developing continuing medical education than a more traditional survey-based needs assessment. This electronic needs assessment uses the physician's own patient outcome information to assist in determining learning objectives that reflect both perceived and unperceived needs.