Primary care in the United States faces unprecedented challenges from an aging population and the accompanying prevalence of chronic disease. In response, continuing medical education (CME) initiatives have begun to adopt the principles of performance improvement (PI) into their design, although currently there is a dearth of evidence from national initiatives supporting the effectiveness of this methodology. The specific aim of this study was to demonstrate the value of a national PI-CME activity to improve the performance of physicians treating patients with diabetes.
We analyzed data from the American Academy of Family Physicians' METRIC® PI-CME activity in a cohort of family physician learners. The study utilized the 3-stage design standard approved for PI-CME. Baseline and follow-up performance data across a range of clinical and systems-based measures were compared in aggregate.
Data were assessed for 509 learners who completed the activity. Statistically significant changes occurred both for self-assessment of a range of practice aspects and for diabetes care measures. Learners recognized that the organization of their practices had improved, and mechanisms were in place for better staff feedback, as well as aspects of patient self-management. Based on the clinical data obtained from 11 538 patient charts, 6 out of 8 diabetes measures were significantly improved.
The activity appears to have had a positive, measurable impact on the medical practice of learners and suggests that, when appropriately designed and executed, PI-CME on a national scale can be a useful vehicle to influence performance change in physicians and to inform future CME activities.