Writing CME Needs Assessments

A continuing medical education or CME needs assessment (NA) tells a story that weaves the knowledge and practice gaps, learning objectives, expert insights, tentative agenda, and plans for measuring outcomes into a grant proposal that addresses the requested targeted information.  

Kimnar Group LLC identifies the gaps in the knowledge, competence and current practices of healthcare and scientific professionals for a specific disease. How? 

Articles, surveys, interviews, Grand Rounds, and reports sometimes list one or more gaps. Maybe the guidelines for disease management are old and recent reviews have provided additional insights, or the guidelines have just been revised.  

A CME NA highlights the gaps that can be fixed with education and practice. As noted below, the full grant proposal provides learning objectives that state what each part of the CME program will address. It also proposes relevant methods for measuring the outcomes and describes the expected outcomes.  

Outcomes are changes expected in the knowledge, comprehension, and/or practices of the healthcare practitioners. The grant proposal often links the expected outcomes to the National Quality Strategy from the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality. 

How the CME needs assessment fits in to the overall grant

CME needs assessment is one part of a grant application that requests funds to teach professionals about a single disease, such as Giant Cell Arteritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Tardive dyskinesia, asthma, melanoma, myeloma, and small cell lung cancer.  My list of therapeutic areas can be viewed here.

Table 1 lists the 10 common parts of a grant application for requesting funds to produce the CME program.

Because CME programs often provide CME credit for many types of healthcare professionals (specialists, primary care physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists), I search for gaps in knowledge, competence, and practices of these HCPs.

Common Resources

Here are examples of resources for finding reports and articles to document the gaps for a CME needs assessment.

Medical literature indexed on Pubmed. The articles can find gaps in:

  • Pathophysiology and etiology (What causes the disease and how it progresses or gets better),
  • Risk factors (Who is more likely to get the disease? Who is more likely to be protected from the disease?
  • Guidelines for diagnosis and for classification criteria (Classification criteria identify patients with the more common symptoms and findings and are used in recruiting patients to clinical trials)
  • Common treatments with their mechanisms of action, efficacy and safety profiles
  • Management for the specific disease, such as prevalence of relapses, patient noncompliance, and strategies
  • Emerging therapies (their stage of development, mechanism of action, efficacy, and safety profiles)

Other websites that contain useful information for writing a CME needs assessment are

  • Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a section on diseases & conditions https://www.cdc.gov/diseasesconditions/index.html and a section on data and statistics https://www.cdc.gov/datastatistics/
  • The NIH Institute that studies the specific disease such as the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and National Institute on Aging (US), National Cancer Institute
  • National Cancer Institute,  Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) https://seer.cancer.gov/statistics/ 
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network provides practice guidelines in oncology

Disease-focused organizations often have articles on current incidence and prevalence of disease (epidemiology). Here are three organizations that I often use for writing CME needs assessments.

Professional Societies for Healthcare Practitioners, Specialists, and scientists that serve the specialists treating the target disease often include guidelines. Several organizations may serve the physicians and specialists for a specific disease. Here are a few examples.

o   American Academy of Ophthalmology

o   American Association for Cancer Research

o   American Association of Neurology

o   American Brain Foundation

o   American Cancer Society

o   American College of Rheumatology

o   American Psychiatric Association

o  American Society of Clinical Oncology

o  American Society of Microbiologists

o   Arthritis Foundation

o   International Society of Stem Cell Research

o   National Alliance on Mental Illness

o   National Organization for Rare Disorders

o   National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia

o   Society for Vascular Surgery

o   Uveitis.org

o   Vascular Foundation

o   World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry  

Associations for Caregivers also may have identified gaps in the treatment of diseases and the care of the patients.  An example is the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving.

For many clients, I also include the learning objectives and National Quality Strategies.


Interviews and/or surveys of specialists in the field also provide great insights for the needs assessment.

Looking forward to discussing the writing of your next CME needs assessment project.