Cost-effectiveness and Economic Benefit of Continuous Professional Development for Drug Prescribing: A Systematic Review

David A. Cook, Christopher R. Stephenson, John M. Wilkinson, Stephen Maloney, Jonathan Foo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Importance: The economic impact of continuous professional development (CPD) education is incompletely understood. Objective: To systematically identify and synthesize published research examining the costs associated with physician CPD for drug prescribing. Evidence Review: MEDLINE, Embase, PsycInfo, and the Cochrane Database were searched from inception to April 23, 2020, for comparative studies that evaluated the cost of CPD focused on drug prescribing. Two reviewers independently screened all articles for inclusion and reviewed all included articles to extract data on participants, educational interventions, study designs, and outcomes (costs and effectiveness). Results were synthesized for educational costs, health care costs, and cost-effectiveness. Findings: Of 3338 articles screened, 38 were included in this analysis. These studies included at least 15659 health care professionals and 1963197 patients. Twelve studies reported on educational costs, ranging from $281 to $183554 (median, $15664). When economic outcomes were evaluated, 31 of 33 studies (94%) comparing CPD with no intervention found that CPD was associated with reduced health care costs (drug costs), ranging from $4731 to $6912000 (median, $79373). Four studies found reduced drug costs for 1-on-1 outreach compared with other CPD approaches. Regarding cost-effectiveness, among 5 studies that compared CPD with no intervention, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for a 10% improvement in prescribing ranged from $15390 to $437027 to train all program participants. Four comparisons of alternative CPD approaches found that 1-on-1 educational outreach was more effective but more expensive than group education or mailed materials (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio, $18-$4105 per physician trained). Conclusions and Relevance: In this systematic review, CPD for drug prescribing was associated with reduced health care (drug) costs. The educational costs and cost-effectiveness of CPD varied widely. Several CPD instructional approaches (including educational outreach) were more effective but more costly than comparators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2144973
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 26 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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