Professional Practice Gaps

From a CME accreditation standpoint, the goals of continuing medical education have changed during the past ten years. CME is now based on the concepts of quality improvement in order to achieve and maintain physician competency and performance. The ultimate achievement of CME is the improvement in patient health status.

Both individual educational activities (e.g., conferences) and series activities (e.g., grand rounds) are designed around identified practice gaps. The term, professional practice gap, is defined as the difference between what a physician currently knows and is doing and what he or she should know and do.

Identifying professional practice gaps is a straightforward process, utilizing the following questions:

  • What areas in practice do you and your colleagues find challenging? (examples include: difficult-to-manage or non-resolvable cases; prevalent public health problems; lifestyle-related health problems; patient safety concerns; limitations or obstacles occurring in the health care system)

  • What factors contribute to the problem?

  • What educational interventions are needed to change current behavior to "best practices" behavior? (Or what does the target audience need to do differently in order to improve practice?)

  • What is the best format for teaching and learning the concepts to be presented? (examples include: Case presentation and discussion, demonstration, expert panel, lecture and discussion, moderated audience discussion, problem analysis and application to practice, question and answer session, role play, simulation, self-directed learning, skill development, or small group discussion)

  • What additional CME or non-CME strategies must be incorporated in order for the target audience to achieve "best practice" behavior? Non-CME strategies may include applications added to smart phones or tablet computers to make resources more readily available; discussions held in medical staff meetings to reinforce learning; assessment tools; patient education materials; laminated reference cards; clinical practice guidelines uploaded into electronic health record system; printed algorithms, etc.