Perceptions have shifted. Continuing medical education/continuing education activities that once were seen as part of the problem in healthcare are increasingly considered by experts as part of the cure.

Take the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, or REMS, programs, for instance, which I wrote about two years ago in this column. These programs make the Food and Drug Administration a de facto partner of the CME/CE community in identifying education gaps and needs for learners. These validated educational areas enabled the development of several opioid REMS CME programs in 2012, with more on the way in 2013.Analyze almost any major healthcare challenge, and CME/CE can help bring clarity, efficiency, and improved practices that benefit patient health. Consider the following three healthcare areas:

  • Cost: According the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ “National Healthcare Expenditure” reports, the top four cost centers for healthcare represent a total spend of about $1.7 trillion annually. Of this total, hospital care represents 47 percent, physician and clinical services represent 30 percent, and prescription drugs represent 15 percent. By developing CME/CE appropriate to specific audiences, we can help reduce unnecessary infections and hospital stays, while improving efficiency in diagnosis and treatment.
  • Healthcare reform: By providing insurance to an additional 30 million or more patients, reform legislation instantly created an opportunity for CME/CE leaders. We need to educate more healthcare professionals to provide this additional care, and we also can tailor education to improve patient compliance and adherence. 
  • Team-based care: The Institute of Medicine and others have long promoted team-based care. Family physicians now promote the “medical home” concept that promotes an effective team approach. The CME/CE field has already started to adopt and promote team-based care.

    Almost 41 percent of CME learners in 2010 were nonphysicians. And the growth of Web-based programs combined with more easily accessible, local, live activities supports appropriate education for multiple players on the healthcare team.

Is CME a panacea? Of course not. It’s not connected with a great deal of today’s research and development, clinical trials, or scientific publishing. But with continued focus on significant healthcare problems that face the U.S. government, healthcare organizations, physicians, and patients, it’s logical to view CME/CE as an important part of the solution.

Stephen M. Lewis, MA, CCMEP, is president of Littleton, Colo.–based Global Education Group. He can be reached at

More of Stephen's columns:

Getting to  Meaningful Outcomes In Continuing Medical Education

Social Media Is Not the Message

The One-Word Future of CME

AMA Logic Harms Medicine

As Goes Healthcare, So Goes CME

Welcome to the CME Business

Ringing In a New Era for CME

REMS: A New Trajectory for CME?