Physician demand for convenient ways to obtain CME credits is driving online-learning models—but not at the expense of live meetings.
Sep 01, 2005

Physicians have always made continuing medical education (CME) an important part of their career paths—far in excess of credits required for licensure. But the weight of corporate scandals and increased public scrutiny has placed an additional burden on meeting providers, as they walk the fine line between making events worth doctors' time and adhering to ACCME and OIG guidelines.

Today's physicians are more focused on lifelong learning, according to Marsha Meyer, senior vice president of clinical research at CME LLC. Even for the states that do not require CME credits for licensing, attendance is consistently strong, she says. "Physicians know science is cranking out new treatments at an incredible rate and their focus is on lifelong learning—not putting in seat time."

Live CME Preferences
"The fact is, better educated doctors practice better medicine," says Alan Lotvin, MD, president and COO of the Pri-Med Institute, a provider of primary-care, psychiatry, and pharmacy-update conferences. And despite a general regulatory-induced wariness on the part of many meeting providers, live CME meetings are here to stay—a fact that was confirmed by Pri-Med earlier this year, when it polled 1,423 physicians on their CME preferences.

Pri-Med's undertaking, the February 2005 National Physician CME Insight Study, showed that despite a range of CME sources available to doctors—from live dinner meetings, conferences, and symposia to eCME—live meetings continue to be the preferred educational format (see "Preferred Sources").

"While there has been a marked increase [50 percent] in online CME in the last two years, this has not been at the expense of live meetings," says Anne Goodrich, Pri-Med's research director. Online learning is really a complement to live meeting attendance, she says.

Preferred Sources of CME: 2003-2005
According to Pri-Med's study, live CME meetings comprised 56 percent of the total CME-earned credits in the past two years, with an average of 58 total credits earned per year. Within live CME, 34 percent of respondents attended conferences and meetings. Hospital grand rounds were used by 9 percent of respondents, while 7 percent attended pharma-sponsored meetings. A slightly smaller fraction (6 percent) took graduate courses for CME credits.

"Our studies show that the majority of physicians want to be educated in a live forum," Lotvin says. "Physicians like the opportunity for interpersonal interaction with colleagues and speakers, and often, the questions that come up in a live meeting are as interesting as the talk itself."

While Lotvin acknowledges the important roles of distance learning, he thinks e-learning and satellite conferences don't fully replicate the live learning environment customers want. "Live learning is the way they have learned in the past; it's interactive and a more intellectually stimulating way of learning," he says.

Decision-Making Criteria: Live CME
Live learning also provides physicians with another crucial element to their educational experience: face-to-face contact. James Montague, chairman/president of the Professional Meeting Planners Network (PMPN), says many CME programs make the mistake of not allowing enough time for colleagues to network. "It's very important to give physicians the opportunity to interact," he says.

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