In recent years, industry-sponsored continuing medical education (CME) and its marketing has not only proliferated, but come to dominate available CME offerings. In many cases, industry marketing unduly influences patient requests for medications and treatments, as well as provider prescribing practices. At the same time, the use of social media is incontrovertibly growing among physicians, but little work has been done to demonstrate how it can promote conflict-free medical education opportunities. Building on these needs, the National Physicians Alliance (NPA) has developed a project entitled "Leveraging Social Media to Promote Conflict free Continuing Medical Education," through which it will design and implement a study to determine the optimal outreach strategy and social media platform for successfully encouraging physician uptake of conflict-free CME drawn from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ's) Effective Health Care Program. The proposed study hypothesizes that first, interactive strategies will prove more effective than more static strategies in leading physicians to click through and share conflict-free medical education content, and second, that Twitter (a medium premised on brevity of message and ease of forwarding) will prove more effective than Facebook, the NPA blog, or traditional e-mail in leading physicians to click through and share AHRQ CME coursework. Study results will help the NPA and other health professional associations, as well as government agencies, identify the best strategies to promote conflict free medical education content and to offer critically important alternatives to industry-sponsored content. The study complements the NPA's established work, which includes the "Unbranded Doctor" initiative and the NPA's new Partnership to Advance Conflict-free Medical Education (PACME). The project also builds on the NPA's "Promoting Good Stewardship in Medicine" project, which relied on comparative effectiveness studies to develop "Top 5" lists-"5 Things You Can Do in Your Practice"-to help physicians adopt evidence-based practice reforms that ensure quality care while eliminating wasteful and even harmful care. The proposed project's multidisciplinary research team is comprised of Jean Silver-Isenstadt, MD, PhD;William Jordan, MD, MPH;Salomeh Keyhani, MD, MPH;Mark Ryan, MD;Paul Herbert, PhD;and Deborah Korenstein, MD. The project's national advisory panel includes Kent Bottles, MD;Chris Cassel, MD;David Grande, MD, MPA;and Raina Merchant, MD, MS.

Public Health Relevance

Continuing Medical Education (CME) is a critical tool and obligation for physicians, intended to ensure maintenance of skills and up-to-date knowledge about treatment options, health technology, care delivery, and other topics relevant to clinical medicine. However, industry- sponsored courses dominate CME offerings, influence both the range of topics available to physicians and how those topics are approached, and heighten concern that a company's marketing interests could ultimately affect treatment decisions. This proposal aims to leverage social media to evaluate the most effective ways to encourage physicians to participate in conflict-free CME courses from the Agency of for Healthcare Research and Quality's Effective Health Care Program;an understanding of best practices in this area will contribute to public health by increasing physicians'uptake of conflict-free educational offerings, thus protecting against undue industry influence in medical education and consequent clinical decision making.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Research Demonstration and Dissemination Projects (R18)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHS1-HSR-X (03))
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Chappel, Tahleah
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National Physicians Alliance Foundation
United States
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