Study Looks at how Group Practices Handle Continuing Medical Education

From 1997 to 2001, researchers at the Medical Group Management Association Center for Research conducted a study on the role of continuing medical education in meeting the financial and strategic goals of group practices.

The study consisted of interviews, telephone surveys and internet surveys of representatives of medical practices.

The center is the not-for-profit research arm of Medical Group Management Association, the Englewood, Colo., membership association representing more than 11,000 medical group practices.

Key Findings

The principal investigator reported to RWJF that the low number of survey participants prevented the researchers from "drawing any statistically significant conclusions." But in his report to RWJF, he noted "indicators and trends" that could be derived from the survey results:

  • Almost half of all responding practices (47%) do not have a written policy regarding continuing medical education, which suggests that it is generally not part of a group's organizational strategy.
  • Regardless of group characteristics, the role of continuing medical education is not well defined, applied in an organized way, or used to meet the organization's financial or strategic goals.
  • Most groups do not influence either the types or the subject or content of continuing medical education programs in which their providers participate.
  • Although continuing medical education is a general and substantial cost for group practices, it is not managed as an investment.
  • The working hypothesis of the study—that "[continuing medical education] would become a major component of managed care's strategic planning activities as markets became more competitive"—was rejected by both the data and the research experience.