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The epidemiology of physician learning
Medical Teacher Volume 24, Number 3/May 01, 2002
06/27/2002
In a paper by H. B. Slotnick, George Mejicano, Steven M. Passin, and Ann Bailey, all except Passin from University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School, the authors explored epidemiology--a tool useful in medicine--as a perspective on the education of physicians. More specifically, the parallel between medicine and education was examined, key features of epidemiology were identified, and these were used in exploring attributes of the continuing education of physicians. This exploration involved both a regional study of primary care physicians for adults and a national study of a single specialty.

As a result of the study involving pediatric epileptologists, the authors concluded that there is value in planning CME activities related to problems for which there is a 20% or higher prevalence for the learning stage, that is, the point at which a physician recognizes that he/she has such problem, that there is a solution, that resources are available, and that learning the solution will be of benefit. Such prevaluence can be determined by the need assessment with appropriate vignettes.

The study that involved offerings by the University of Wisconsin suggested that there were differences between primary care doctors in subsurban areas and those in rural areas, the latter being more in need of education, apparently because they lack referral sources. Finally, the authors looked at unpreceived needs, and recommended the mounting of programs that would help doctors recognize why they need to update themselves rather than what the update should cover.