CE Outcomes Publishes Surveys Analyzing Physician Shifts in Medical Information-Seeking Patterns During COVID-19 Crisis

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CE Outcomes has recently conducted a series of surveys to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed United States physicians’ medical information-seeking patterns. The survey questions were developed by Wendy Cerenzia and Greg Salinas, PhD, at CE Outcomes and the surveys were sent and responded to via email to random samples of United States practicing specialists in March 2020, April 2020, and July 2020. A sample of 292 responses was collected in March 2020, a sample of 327 responses was collected in April 2020, and a sample of 371 responses was collected in July 2020.  

The surveys were meant to gauge interest and the anticipated disruption in live continuing education meetings. The respondents from March 2020 – at the beginning of the COVID pandemic – anticipated that about ¼ of their CME credits would come from live meetings and anticipated that live meetings would resume within six to twelve months. However, by July 2020 – several months in to the COVID-19 crisis – 50% of respondents did not believe they would resume attendance at live meetings for at least another twelve months, in July 2021 at the earliest, and respondents believed that only 9% of their CME credits would come from live meetings.  

The surveys also found that COVID-19 has had an impact on practitioners’ ability to stay updated on the latest clinical information in their specialty. In March 2020, 36% of respondents believed COVID-19 would have a “not at all significant” on their ability to stay up-to-date on the latest clinical information in their specialty area. By April 2020, that number had shrunk to 25%, and by July was only a mere 10%.  

The survey also gauged aspects of engagement with national and international meetings that were transitioned to online formats.  In March 2020, the majority reported they were either not at all likely or only slightly likely to participate (69%), however, physicians polled in April 2020 and July 2020 were more likely to consider engaging in the online meeting content.   

In the July survey, CE Outcomes included follow-up questions to assess if specialists had yet engaged in an online national or international meeting, with 1/3 reporting that they had, 21% reporting they had the opportunity but chose not to participate, and 46% reporting they had not yet had the opportunity to participate. Of those that have participated, just over ½ reported the content was much or slightly worse than the live version of the meeting (52%), while 23% reported it was about the same as the live meeting. For those that had the opportunity but chose not to participate, 40% reported they did not have time to participate and 28% reported that the cost of online participation was too high. 

The study sought to understand engagement with CME during the COVID-19 pandemic. CE Outcomes found that, as of July 2020, about ½ of survey respondents (51%) have participated in CME on the topic of COVID-19, while 82% of specialists engaged in CME on other topics since March 1, 2020. Regarding topics of interest for future CME on COVID-19, most were looking for the latest information on treatments, updates on a potential vaccine, as well as content specific to their own specialty related to how COVID-19 is impacting underlying conditions and potential long-term implications.  

Given the uncertainty related to viability of live meetings extending well into next year, it is imperative for CME to be designed in an engaging manner that reaches the specialists with needed relevant data. There is a challenge for education to facilitate this interaction as well as an opportunity to provide more engaging approaches than traditionally provided by live events. 

A special thanks to Wendy Cerenzia from CE Outcomes for summarizing the surveys.  

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