According to a nationwide study released recently by the Pri-Med Institute, Boston, effective CME can cause significant shifts in the clinical practice behavior of primary care physicians, especially in treating conditions for which guidelines for diagnosis and treatment are not yet widely accepted.

The institute asked the doctors who would be participating in future Pri-Med Updates conferences in nine cities across the country to analyze a specific case-based scenario. The scenario involved three conditions or disease states, and the doctors were to determine a diagnostic and treatment path. Four to six weeks after participating in the CME, the physicians were given the same case scenarios with the same instructions.

They found that the self-reported data indicated 97 percent of the docs said they were able to apply the clinical education they received to their practices. The conferences covered a variety of conditions and disease states commonly treated in primary care. More than 30 percent of participants also reported that they incorporated the clinical guidelines presented in treating intermittent claudication and benign prostatic hyperplasia into their practice. Statistically significant increases were also reported for stress urinary incontinence, gastrosintestinal reflux disease, neuropathic pain and congestive heart failure.

The study indicates that the impact of CME on clinical practice behavior is greatest in conditions where there are not yet widely accepted or uniform guidelines for diagnosis and treatment, said Anne Goodrich, Pri-Med Institute director of research, in a press release. “Change is least evident in conditions where treatment methods and tools are uniformly well-established.”