Mindi McKenna, PhD, MBA, director, Division of Continuing Medical Education, American Academy of Family Physicians, said something at a session at this year’s National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration conference that has been resonating with me ever since I heard it: “We should pay as much attention to outcomes as we do to incomes.”

Yes we should. And while I can’t put words in her mouth, I would say that “we” doesn’t include just continuing medical education providers, commercial supporters, and learners, but also the rest of the population that is in some way touched by CME providers’ work. This is a small group I like to call “everyone else”—those who toil in the regulatory, accreditation, and governmental bodies that make up and enforce the rules medical educators work by, other members of a patient’s healthcare team, insurers, payers, and, of course, patients.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that the part of that “we” who live in the continuing medical education and life sciences communities is already well on the way to understanding the importance of shifting the outcomes focus from smile sheets to, at least, improved knowledge, competence, or performance—and for some activities, even to the holy grails of improved patient and population health.

But that’s not to say everyone’s on board the outcomes train yet, even in this community. As this issue's “Ethical Hypothetical” illustrates, there still are CME providers who either don’t understand or don’t care about following the rules that will allow us to once and for all stop worrying about the ethics of the income piece and put our attention firmly on outcomes.

So there’s still a need to continue to educate, self-regulate, and self-police, and to continue research efforts such as the Cleveland Clinic study we wrote about in the June 2010 issue that found no correlation between bias and the commercial support of an activity.

But we also need to do a whole lot more to get the attention to shift from media “gotchas” for the misdeeds of the few—such as the ProPublica media campaign that focused on the 1.4 percent of healthcare providers on pharma speakers bureaus who were in some way not qualified for the job, rather than the 98.6 percent who were—to the reasons why industry and educators (accredited or not) are willing to jump through the hoops they do: What they do makes a difference in patient care.

You may have noticed that a few of this year’s cover stories—including this issue’s—have focused on education that works. I’d like to continue to use this magazine to get the word out about some of the great outcomes that are getting lost in all the media anti-collaboration hype. Of course we will continue to report on the income factor because, for better or for worse, without funding (from whatever source), there will be no post-graduate medical education. But we also want to keep our focus on the outcomes you all are achieving, in hopes that others will be inspired by your example to push a little harder and reach a little higher in their educational activities.

What do you think? Please comment below or send me an e-mail.

More of Sue's editorials:
Let's Get Small

GAME Meeting Gets Global Learning Right

The CME Provider/Parent Parallel