ABSTRACT: Effects of a signature on rates of change: a randomized controlled trial involving continuing education and the commitment-to-change model.
Physicians frequently are asked to sign commitments to change practice, based upon their involvement in continuing medical education (CME) activities. Although use of the commitment-to-change model is increasingly widespread in CME, the effect of signing such commitments on rates of change is not well understood.
Immediately after a CME session, 110 physicians were asked to specify a change they intended to make in practice and to designate a level of commitment to change. To determine the effects of a signature on rates of change, physicians were randomly assigned to control (signature) and experimental (non-signature) groups. Follow-up surveys were conducted at two and three months to determine rates of change.
In all, 88 physicians completed the first questionnaire, and 64 of them completed the follow-up. Consistent with prior studies involving the commitment-to-change model, those expressing an intention to change were significantly more likely to change on follow-up (p =.035). There was no significant difference between signature and non-signature groups (p =.99), regardless of age or gender.
Signatures appear unimportant to assuring compliance with commitments to change used in CME conferences. A physician’s behavior can be expected to change if the specified change is consistent with the physician’s beliefs and sense of what is important. The relative influences of components of the commitment-to-change model require further study to determine more clearly their roles in causation and measurement.