The effect of continuing professional development on public complaints: a case-control study

Med Educ. 2015 Mar;49(3):264-75. doi: 10.1111/medu.12633.


Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the relationship between participation in different types of continuing professional development (CPD), and incidences and types of public complaint against physicians.

Methods: Cases included physicians against whom complaints were made by members of the public to the medical regulatory body in Ontario, Canada, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), during 2008 and 2009. The control cohort included physicians against whom no complaints were documented during the same period. We focused on complaints related to physician communication, quality of care and professionalism. The CPD data included all Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) CPD programme activities reported by the case and control physicians. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to determine if the independent variable, reported participation in CPD, was associated with the dependent variable, the complaints-related status of the physician in the year following reported CPD activities.

Results: A total of 2792 physicians were included in the study. There was a significant relationship between participation in CPD, type of CPD and type of complaint received. Analysis indicated that physicians who reported overall participation in CPD activities were significantly less likely (odds ratio 0.604; p = 0.028) to receive quality of care-related complaints than those who did not report participating in CPD. Additionally, participation in group-based CPD was less likely (OR 0.681; p = 0.041) to result in quality of care-related complaints.

Conclusions: The findings demonstrate a positive relationship between participation in the national CPD programmes of the CFPC and RCPSC, and lower numbers of public complaints received by the CPSO. As certification bodies and regulators alike are increasingly mandating CPD, they are encouraged to continually evaluate the effectiveness of their programmes to maximise programme impact on physician performance at the population level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Health Care