INTRODUCTION: Rapidly expanding science and mandates for maintaining credentials place increasing demands on continuing medical education (CME) activities to provide information that is current and relevant to patient care. Quality may be seen as the perceived level of service measured against consumer expectations. Standard tools have not been developed to determine how well CME activities meet consumer expectations. METHODS: A widely used approach for evaluating perceptions of service quality in other fields, SERVQUAL, was adapted for CME by eliciting perspectives from physician consumers of CME and CME providers through nominal group techniques. These perspectives were used to develop a CMEQUAL evaluation survey instrument. Feasibility testing was conducted. Data were analyzed and items were tested for internal consistency. RESULTS: CME participants were individuals willing to complete items related to expectations before participation and perceptions after participation in a CME activity. Of the CME activity participants who provided CMEQUAL rating data for the study, 43% rated their overall perceptions of the CME activity below their overall expectations. CME activities most clearly met participant expectations in providing fair and balanced evidence-based content. Areas of lower priority for participants included opportunities for self-assessment, solving cases, and interactive learning. Two areas highly valued by participants but not adequately addressed by CME activities were (1) translating trial data to patient seen in practice and (2) addressing barriers to optimal patient management. DISCUSSION: Developing standards for evaluating physician perceptions of the quality of CME activities may assist CME providers in improving the effectiveness of CME activities in meeting physician learning needs.