The foundation of a CME activity is 'evidence-based education'. Conducting a Needs Assessment will lead your organization to collect evidence, analyze the data, and decide upon a course of action.
While conducting a Needs Assessment is recommended, it is important to note that the ACCME does not require a formal needs assessment. You are required to "incorporate into CME activities the educational needs that underlie the professional practice gaps" [C2] (which the Academy ensures by reviewing your Gap Analysis), "use a planning process that links identified educational needs with desired results" (which the Academy ensures by reviewing your Instructional System Design [ISD]), and "use needs assessment data" [E2.2] (which is nothing more than the identification of gaps, barriers, and resources). A formal Needs Assessment is only required when applying for educational grants.
Many CME planners have used surveys, "expert" opinion, and literature reviews as a primary method of gathering needs-assessment data. The needs-assessment data that have been collected in this way will be minimally useful in helping CME planners identify and address the learning needs of physicians. - Dr. Donald E. Moore
The tools, examples, and resources below are designed to avoid the shortcomings described by Dr. Moore. By conducting a proper Needs Assessment, you will address or support 9 of the 22 ACCME Updated Criteria and 3 of 7 Essential Elements.