Lichti: How did you decide on the optimal educational design, based on the gaps and needs uncovered?

Holsey: As we were educating practicing clinicians, we knew it was important to incorporate a variety of learning formats into the activity that addressed both clinical knowledge and translation to the patient. Participants engaged in clinical discussions and case vignettes with faculty from NJH and the NMA, as well as patient education talks and hands-on spirometry training by a respiratory therapist from the COPD Foundation. Our gap and needs analysis determined that healthcare providers faced challenges in differentiating asthma from COPD, identifying the diagnostic criteria for COPD, performing spirometry on appropriate patients, and correctly interpreting the results of spirometry performed.

Lichti: What were the lessons learned, educational impact on learners, and ultimately, patient health improvements that resulted from this initiative?

Burke: The program showed successful outcomes in the areas of provider knowledge, competency, and performance, but more important, we were thrilled that providers were actually using spirometry more and were more confident doing so after the 2013 activities:

  • There was a 55 percent (n=44) improvement in physicians’ comfort with using spirometry on their patients.
  • 69 percent (n=44) of physicians planned to use spirometry for their patients with obstructive lung disease more than 80 percent of the time.
  • 65 percent (n=44) of physicians felt they are able to correctly diagnose COPD in more than 80 percent of their patients

This means that more patients are being properly diagnosed and hopefully diagnosed earlier, treated appropriately, and as a result were in better overall health as a result of this program. In addition, I’ve personally learned so much through this collaboration about the importance of having different perspectives contributing to CME programs. This partnership has brought a lot of important players together, including National Jewish Health with an expertise in this disease area, an organization with access to providers who are out in the communities seeing these patients, and a patient advocacy group with resources that we wouldn’t have been able to provide to participants without their involvement. We actually received an award from the Colorado Alliance for Continuing Medical Education recognizing the activity as the Most Outstanding Collaboration in 2012.

Lichti: How did including patient advocacy groups benefit your CME initiative?

Burke: The providers really appreciated having the COPD Foundation involved in our project. Providers (especially primary care providers) are extremely busy, and they appreciate having a place to send patients for support, as well as resources and materials that they can share with their patients. Patient education is a huge part of the COPD Foundation’s mission, so it was really a perfect union.

Lichti: With so many partners involved, what are some “pearls of wisdom” that you can share for others looking to partner in a similar fashion?

Holsey: In our NMA/NJH/COPD Foundation partnership experience, we found that collaborations can be essential to the effectiveness of CME programs. Partnering with external groups can shape creative initiatives that may not be as feasible with a single institution. It can be quite energizing and exciting to work with mission-focused colleagues from other respected establishments on important educational efforts. The key to maintaining a lasting partnership is enabling each partner representative to provide valuable input and feedback while shaping the program. Good organization of the program, efficient implementation, effective communication among partners, and successful outcomes are vital to ongoing, healthy collaborations.

Lichti: Collaborating can take on many different shapes. Whether formally partnering on CME initiatives with diverse provider types and patient advocacy groups, mentoring and peer-to-peer discussions, or through articles and presentations that highlight our successes, let’s continue finding ways to work together.

Ann C. Lichti, CCMEP, is the director of accreditation and compliance for Physicians’ Education Resource® LLC (PER®). Reach her at alichti@gotoper.com.

Meg Burke, MHSA, CCMEP, is the senior educational partnerships manager in the Office of Professional Education for National Jewish Health. Reach her at burkem@njhealth.org.

Chanda Nicole Holsey, DrPH, MPH, AE-C, is the National Medical Association  Internal Medicine Section administrator; Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Section administrator; and president of the Association of Asthma Educators. Reach her at chandanicole@hotmail.com.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not constitute the views of PER®, NJH, or NMA.