In 2010, the MGH Academy team, led by Tristan Gorrindo, MD, director of postgraduate education at Massachusetts General Hospital, took advantage of its access to clinical experts to began evolving the MGH Academy’s product portfolio based on trends in healthcare and continuing education. The team members then analyzed how this information could help them create education that has built-in competitive differentiators.

“We noticed that broader healthcare trends were impacting the CME business significantly,” Gorrindo says. “Hospitals, health systems, schools of medicine, and clinicians alike were all moving away from strict knowledge content and toward patient-centered care and quality. The number of CME activities from health delivery systems and schools of medicine is up 4.5 percent since 2010. And overall employment has increased dramatically at hospitals and health systems over the last 10 years.

“However, the irony is that while they’ve increased the number of their own CME activities, they’ve also slashed or eliminated clinician education budgets, shifting some of the cost responsibility for education back onto clinicians.”

 

In order to position itself for the potential of increased education expenses for clinicians, the MGH Academy began launching tuition-based online courses in its strongest area of content expertise, mental health. These courses offer a low-priced entry point for clinicians with small education budgets, and also make education accessible for anyone regardless of location, according to Gorrindo.

 

It started with a Fundamentals of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy course that, instead of the typical webinar talking heads, offers an array of role-play videos, interactive discussion boards, self-assessments, and live chats or call-in hours with faculty, he says. “These features differentiate the course from free CME activities that are available by the dozens.”

That initial course was a success, with a few dozen registrants at price points in the low hundreds. Once they got this proof of concept for the model, the MGH Academy kept going—it now offers multiple courses in mental health that run several times each year and have hundreds of combined participants. They also launched fee-based psychiatry board review courses and Maintenance of Certification, or MOC, modules, mobile apps, and even eBooks for tablets. The team plans to replicate this process across other therapeutic areas.

“This not only makes education accessible, which is an important part of our mission, but also diversifies our revenue model to a more stable source,” Gorrindo adds. “And it’s led to a multidisciplinary learning experience that mirrors the broader evolution towards patient-centered, quality care.”