Medical Education: What Physicians Want

e-CME providers must step up their game to keep doctors engaged.
Feb 01, 2006

Joe DeBelle
Electronic continuing medical education (e-CME) appeals to doctors on many levels. It helps them earn mandatory industry credits, expand their knowledge, maximize their availability for patient care, and manage their practices. Nearly 14 percent of physicians who registered for CME credits in 2004 did so online, according to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). Further, e-CME participation nearly doubled in 2004, whereas participation in live events decreased for the first time in the same year, according to the Coalition on Healthcare Communications.

While the interest in e-CME continues to grow, the quality of these programs has, in some cases, not kept pace. Not all e-CME programs fulfill

the promise of cutting costs and saving physicians' time. The effectiveness of a CME program depends on its features and capabilities, and the design of the e-CME software, coupled with the expertise of the e-CME provider. Sometimes e-CME providers focus so much on developing the perfect presentation that they forget the end goal, which is to attract and hold the interest of high-prescribing influential physicians, and ultimately to change their prescribing behavior and patient outcomes. To keep physicians engaged, sponsors should look for the following features when selecting an e-CME program:

Education on-demand Physicians don't want to take time away from their patients, their practices, or their families. Through e-CME, any physician with a broadband Internet connection and a Web browser can participate. Because doctors often can't make the appointed date and time of a live CME event, e-CME can provide an extensive archive of events, available on-demand. Even physicians who attend the live event can use e-CME to review and refresh the content of the live meeting.

Extreme interactivity Physicians place a high value on peer communications. An e-CME provider should offer a platform that supports the subtle nuances that make an onsite event exciting. Interactive customizations can include streaming live or taped video and audio, slide kits, diagrams, 3-D animation, real-time chats, and the ability to send questions to presenters, conduct polls and surveys of the live audience in attendance, and publish their results during the conference.

Extreme usability Providers should ensure that physicians' first experiences with e-CME are easy, enjoyable, and informative. If the experience isn't easy and fun, they won't come back for a second try. For example, doctors don't want to download and install a mountain of software, especially if that software is limited to specific brands of computers, Internet services, or Web browsers. Much like the abandoned shopping cart problem that plagues e-commerce providers, if the user experience isn't easy, participants will simply abandon the program.

Self-evident navigation The e-CME platform should allow for easy navigation, and give users the ability to log on and off. It should include a self-directed syllabus or table of contents to guide participants. Providers should offer logical flow from page to page, interactive graphical presentations with engaging images and limited text, presenter chat function, and real-time tech support or customer service. Physicians enjoy presenter functions, such as slide navigation jumps, and a complete script so they can follow along with the presentation.

Keep It Interactive
Qualified recruitment Physicians have little time to run their offices, let alone sort through an avalanche of e-mail inviting them to attend every e-CME program under the sun. Worse, many might flag such messages as spam, effectively sending e-CME invites straight to junk mail. These challenges can be overcome by e-CME software platforms that use an up-to-date, well-qualified database of potential participants. This minimizes recruitment time by ensuring that the physicians being recruited have an interest in e-CME courses.

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