Medical Education: Real-Time CME

News-based CME helps doctors stay on top of new medical information and changes in treatment—before their patients do.
May 01, 2006

Paul Greenberg, MD
Physicians Are Always Looking for ways to stay one step ahead of their patients. Typically, continuing medical education (CME) is designed around specific in-depth educational topics that may be only tangential to the daily practice of medicine. But news-based CME provides education at the point of care—and answers to patient questions—in a format that is both real time and real world.

The delivery methods of medical news have certainly changed over the years—just a decade ago, doctors were kept abreast of medical news via the US mail. Print media still exist, of course, but many physicians today stay on top of research updates and changes in treatment options through online services. Despite the shift in delivery methods, physicians' end goal when it comes to seeking medical information has stayed the same: They want to know about clinical developments that affect their patients—before their patients do.

Many physicians have found that their patients do quite a bit of research and preparation before appointments. The Internet has made it easy for patients to self-educate and retrieve in-depth information about their symptoms or disease states. Many patients do a Google search before scheduling a doctor's appointment. Some actually print out information from the Web, and create a long list of questions to bring to their doctors.

This can be overwhelming for physicians, whose busy schedules may hinder their ability to keep up with the most timely data and treatment options. In this age of easily accessible, instant round-the-clock communications, getting a handle on new information before, or even at the same time as, patients can be challenging. Doctors could benefit from another information outlet—one that supports and understands doctors' needs.

One-Stop Shop
CME providers can help doctors wade through the barrage of information that patients bring to their offices. One way of doing this is by offering doctors a real-time, electronic medical news service—a modernized version of the print pioneers, Medical Tribune and Medical World News. A real-time news service that provides immediate access to breaking medical news can give physicians first-hand, easy access to the information they need to keep up with their patients.

To hold doctors' attention, the news must be written succinctly and at their level. It should feature artful use of visuals, ranging from static images to video interviews with newsmakers and medical experts. Unlike other traditional CME forms, a news service can offer a daily exchange with physicians. To keep them coming back for more information, the news must be relevant and applicable to their practices. Articles should cover more than new data and medical trends; they should explore current events and how they relate to the queries patients may have—the illness of the Pope, for example, or the strokes of Ariel Sharon. Relevant coverage also includes controversial issues, such as the Terry Schiavo story, which was the subject of heated national debate.

A news service can also include research from peer-reviewed medical journals and medical research meetings, as well as other sources of breaking news. The news service should help doctors answer their patients questions, but it also should help answer doctors' own questions.

Unlike traditional CME, which can be episodic in nature, a medical news service can offer a daily engagement with physicians. Making education an integral part of the physician's workday is the most potent way to affect educational outcomes and meet the challenges envisioned in CME. Indeed, learning is most effective when it is tied to direct issues associated with patient care.

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