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Guidelines for Needs Assessment

Planners should follow a systematic process to determine instructional solutions to close the gap between what learners know and do and what learners should know and do. This process is called a Needs Assessment. NACE activity planning committees begin their planning by first completing a thorough Needs Assessment.

What learners know and do
What learners should know and do

Educational objectives of a learning activity are created after there is appropriate identification and analysis of learner needs. The NACE activity planning committee asks the following questions to identify such needs and to understand their impact in patient care.

  1. How prevalent is the need within the target audience?
  2. What assessment sources indicated this need?
  3. What will be the impact on the delivery of health care if this need is unfulfilled?
  4. Can this need be filled by improving actual physician performance?
  5. What barriers exist to physicians changing practice behavior to reach optimal performance?
  6. Will the CME activity being considered improve practice behavior that leads to optimal physician performance in this area of need?

Sources of Data for Needs Assessments
Data for needs assessments can come from a variety of sources: inferred needs, needs and interests that are verbalized, and proven needs.

  • Inferred needs may be derived from the following:
    • New methods of diagnosis or treatment
    • Discovery and availability of new medication(s) or indication(s)
    • Development of new technology that can be applied to diagnosis and treatment of disease
    • Opinions of key experts regarding advancements in medical knowledge
    • Legislative, regulatory, or organizational changes that affect patient care
  • Needs and interests expressed by potential learners
    • Requests submitteed on learner activity evaluation forms
    • Data obtained from formal surveys of potential learners
    • Informal comments and questions asked at CME activities
    • Consensus of faculty members within a department or specialty area
    • Requests from medical quality assurance departments of health facilities
  • Proven needs are based on objective data sources. These needs can be derived from the following:
    • Data from epidemiological studies
    • Quality assurance data
    • Re-credential review
    • Morbidity and mortality data
    • Statistics infection control data
    • Guidelines and requirements published by professional societies and other health care organizations or associations
    • Review of journal articles and other scientific publications
    • News media

Links to Web Sites with data that can be used for needs assessment: