Questions asked by physicians as the basis for continuing education needs assessment

Authors

  • Mark H. Ebell MD, MS,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Georgia; Co-Director, Institute for Evidence-Based Health Professions Education
    • Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, The University of Georgia, N122A Coverdell Building, Athens, GA 30602
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  • Ronald Cervero PhD,

    1. Professor and Associate Dean, College of Education, University of Georgia; Co-Director, Institute for Evidence-Based Health Professions Education
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  • Edward Joaquin BA, MEd

    1. Department of Lifelong Education Administration and Policy, College of Education, University of Georgia
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  • Disclosure: The authors report none.

Abstract

Introduction

Our goal was to identify the clinical questions that health care professionals have at the point of care and explore whether these questions could be used to drive a needs assessment for continuing education programs.

Methods

We gathered questions from 28 clinicians; 11 were directly observed for approximately 5 days per person, while others were given the option of submitting questions via e-mail, pocket card, or text message. They were asked to report all questions—everything from clear-cut questions to vague and fleeting uncertainties—and to evaluate their importance (low, moderate, or high priority). Questions were classified based on the Ely taxonomy of question type and by specialty domain.

Results

We collected 563 questions; most (n = 429) came from the direct observation participants. Most questions were high (n = 171) or moderate (n = 236) priority. Of 60 categories of question type, 65.8% of all questions (and 70% asked by primary care clinicians) fell into only 9 categories. The most common question types were “How should I treat finding/condition y given situation z?”, “Is drug x indicated in situation y or for condition y?”, and “What is the cause of symptom x?”.

Discussion

More than two-thirds of physician questions fell into one of five competencies: cause of a clinical finding, test selection, prevention, treatment selection, and prognosis. By using these questions as a form of needs assessment, educators can develop programs that directly address the information needs and questions of learners in ways that are more likely to change performance and to ultimately benefit patients.

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