Two of the main thrusts in healthcare in the U.S. these days are improving patient care while simultaneously lowering costs. The ongoing debate is whether or not CME really does help push that agenda forward. According to the survey results, a full 98 percent of respondents said CME/CE activities provided them with information that has helped them improve patient care. Close to 60 percent believe the information that they gathered from accredited CME has helped them reduce the cost of the care they provide.

When it comes to improving patient care, the majority—almost half—said that CME activities does so by giving them awareness of additional or more effective treatment options. Thirteen percent said it helps them identify their own areas for improvement, while almost 10 percent said the connection it provides to peers and/or faculty aids in furthering their knowledge, competency, or skills. Other benefits cited include improved patient and/or caregiver education (9 percent), and improvement in how they approached challenging cases.

When asked for specific examples, one wrote, “During a cardiac arrest in the OR, I was able to identify the need for a drug that had been recently added to the algorithm. I was able to suggest it because I had recently attended a lecture on this and the others in the OR had not.”

Looking at healthcare costs, 29 percent said CME/CE gave them knowledge that enabled them to consider more cost-effective treatment options, and one-quarter of respondents said using the more-effective treatment options had resulted in fewer patient followup visits and/or less consult time. Other cost-reducing benefits they cited: They learned to better use their healthcare team resources, resulting in a streamlined approach to patient care; and they learned how to better manage their patients, which resulted in patients improving their adherence to recommended treatments. CME also helps make them more efficient in diagnosing their patients, according to 12 percent of respondents.
Specifically, respondents said CME helped them avoid unnecessary and/or ineffective drug therapies; choose the most effective drug for their formulary instead of having to supply multiple drugs of the same class; and reduce the number of colonoscopy tests by following the guidelines they learned. One said that using the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria for Imaging for evaluating abdominal pain enabled him to reduce the use of CT for abdominal cases, lowering both the cost and the radiation exposure to patients.

This new data can be added to a growing pile of evidence that CME does, in fact, help healthcare providers do their jobs better and that, in turn, results in improved patient outcomes and lower costs. And the survey results bode well for the future of CME, says Stephen Lewis, MA, CCMEP, Global’s general manager and a Medical Meetings columnist: “The combination of this quantitative and qualitative data with the recent Sunshine Act decision to carve out an appropriate CME exemption makes for a more positive outlook than we have seen for years.” (Here's more on the Sunshine Act’s final rule.)