Published 11/1/2009

Evaluating bias in CME courses

Academy gets good marks for presenting unbiased courses

The AAOS has implemented several measures to assess the impact of commercialism and bias in continuing medical education (CME) courses. “Our goal is always to provide unbiased, peer-reviewed high quality education that helps orthopaedists provide safe and effective patient care,” said Gerald R. Williams Jr., MD, chair of the CME Courses Committee.

All CME course faculty are required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. Commercialism and bias have and will continue to be addressed in standard course evaluation forms, which all CME course participants are asked to complete. In addition, in 2009, a randomly selected group of course participants received a special evaluation questionnaire focused specifically on aspects of commercialism and bias. Of the 152 special questionnaires distributed, 49 (32 percent) were returned.

What participants think
Overall, an overwhelming 98 percent of respondents indicated a lack of commercialism or bias in a particular course. For example, in response to the statement, “Commercial interest (eg, company logo/name/product/branding) was clearly evident in faculty presentations,” 92 percent of respondents indicated “not at all” or “slightly.”

The statement, “Faculty integrated clinical expertise with best available evidence whenever possible,” received a 95 percent rating of “moderately” or “to a great extent.” Likewise, 98 percent of respondents indicated “moderately” or “to a great extent” when asked whether data reported from published studies and other personal outcomes were presented in a balanced manner.

Asked whether generic names were used to describe devices and pharmaceuticals, 96 percent of respondents indicated “moderately” or “to a great extent.” Likewise, 90 percent of respondents said “moderately” or “to a great extent” when asked about balance in the discussion of procedures that may be used to treat the various clinical problems presented in the program.

When asked about the extent of bias (favoritism for a single approach when more than one exists), 81 percent of respondents indicated “not at all” or “slightly.” Similarly, when asked about the overall extent of commercialism (favoritism for a single product when more than one exists), 94 percent of respondents answered “not at all” or “slightly.”

Finally, when asked about the impact of commercialism or bias on the educational experience, 88 percent of respondents replied “not at all” or “slightly.”

“The CME Courses Committee reviews these data as part of its ongoing peer review and evaluation of Academy CME courses,” said Dr. Williams. “Committee members work with course directors to improve these results, and may notify faculty members about commercialism and bias identified through this questionnaire.”