Continuing education is taking on greater importance amid new quality measures, but it comes at a time when practices already are having to budget for pricey new electronic health record and technical upgrades called for under health reform. Getting the most bang for the buck when it comes to continuing medical education (CME) is critical.
The pressures on physicians go beyond just keeping up with the pace of knowledge expansion. New requirements to demonstrate quality of care that can be documented and quantified, observers say, further drives up demand for CME.
âWith the movement from volume to value it has become imperative for physicians to perform at a higher level, and CME will become even more important,â says Michael Romano, MD, chief medical officer for Nebraska Health Network, a health system with 1,300 providers. Romano last year won an award from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) for his work on broad CME initiatives that improved physician performance and patient care.
In a 2011 paper for the American Clinical and Climatological Association, Peter Densen, MD, a professor at the University of Iowa, discussed estimates that the doubling time of medical knowledge fell from 50 years in 1950 to 3.5 years in 2010, with a forecast of just 73 days by 2020.
âKnowledge is expanding faster than our ability to assimilate and apply it effectively,â Densen wrote. âClearly, simply adding more material and/or time to the curriculum will not be an effective coping strategyâfundamental change has become an imperative.â
1. New CME can be lower cost
The good news from a financial perspective, say physicians and other CME experts: Some of the most effective learning opportunities are coming from lower cost, informal and often online channels. And even in the live world of medical conferences, there are ways to stretch a CME budget.
âWhen people used to say âCME,â I would think of lecture halls, dark rooms and a sage on the stage, much the way I was educated in medical school,â says Graham McMahon, MD, an internist and president and chief exrcutive officer of ACCME in Chicago. âNow thatâs anachronistic and thereâs such a variety of approaches that are more engaging, interesting and accessible.â
Hospitals are boosting investments in continuing education as a way to satisfy quality initiatives, and physicians themselves are attending a much broader array of programming than they did even just a few years ago, McMahon says.
Rather than simply attending a specialty societyâs annual conference, more physicians are participating in local, informal case presentations and online learning.
âThe currency of education today is not necessarily information exchange, but getting together to problem solve, develop cognitive skills or learn a specific new technique in a hands-on way,â McMahon says.