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J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2011 Fall;31(4):241-6. doi: 10.1002/chp.20136.

Physician preferences for accredited online continuing medical education.

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Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, A240 Toronto, Canada M4N 3M5.



The need for up-to-date and high-quality continuing medical education (CME) is growing while the financial investment in CME is shrinking. Despite online technology's potential to efficiently deliver electronic CME (eCME) to large numbers of users, it has not yet displaced traditional CME. The purpose of this study was to explore what health care providers want in eCME and how they want to use it.


This was a qualitative study. Two 3-hour focus groups were held with physicians in both academic and community practices as well as trainees knowledgeable in the hypertension clinical practice guidelines with a willingness to discuss eCME. Content/thematic analysis was used to examine the data.


Three main themes emerged: credibility, content/context, and control. Credibility was the most consistent and dominant theme. Affiliations with medical organizations and accreditation were suggested as methods by which eCME can gain credibility. The content and need for discussion of the content emerged as a key pivot point between eCME and traditional CME: a greater need for discussion was linked to a preference for traditional face-to-face CME. Control over the content and how it was accessed was an emergent theme, giving learners the ability to control the depth of learning and the time spent. They valued the ability to quickly find information that was in a format (podcast, video, mobile device) that best suited their learning needs or preferences at the time.


This study provides insight into physician preferences for eCME and hypotheses that can be used to guide further research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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