A panel at the 23rd Annual Conference of the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration, held in Baltimore in October, tackled what has become a mantra for continuing medical educators lately: how to do more with less in today’s financially austere environment. Moderated by Karen Roy, MSc, CCMEP, principal, Ardgillan Group, the panelists from both the CME and commercial support side took a hard look at the cost constraints affecting the CME/continuing professional development/continuing education community, what can be done to come up with new funding models, and how to streamline the “administrivia” and paperwork that so often plagues the CME/CPD/CE process.

Stephen Lewis, MA, CCMEP, president, Global Education Group, kicked off the first segment with a hard look at the current state of accredited CME. He noted a growth in nonphysician participants, the 1 percent to 4 percent decline in accredited providers, and the more-than-doubled cost for physicians to participate in accredited CME that came to light with the most recent Accreditation Council for CME’s Annual Report Data.

More income is coming from exhibits and advertising than in the past, while direct and in-kind commercial support continues to flag. He pointed out that as the number of activities continues to rise, the cost per physician is falling. Once the numbers have been crunched, he said, it’s apparent that there is pressure on funding of all types, and the competition for dollars has caused CME providers to be more efficient—“We’re getting more physicians and nonphysicians to our activities, and we’re doing it for less,” he said. He added that the focus is also shifting from compliance with ACCME regulations to providing value. The question then becomes, “How can we maximize value while minimizing costs?”

Shrinking budgets aren’t just a provider problem, according to the panelists who represented the pharma side. One of the pharma panelists said she has seen her grants budget decrease from $140 million six years ago to around $30 million this year. Another reported a drop of available grant money of up to 90 percent over the past several years. Companies just can’t support as many activities as they once could, and, with some companies laying off staff to lower their overhead, they too have to streamline the process and reduce the number of proposals they have to go through to find the right fit for their clinical areas of interest.