Many CME providers have long viewed other providers as the competition, not potential collaborators. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There will never be a time where only one CME provider will handle all of the activities—there is enough business to go around. Even in the more competitive environment of industry-supported CME, the competition ends once the grant is received.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that we can create a noncompetitive environment that would enable provider-level collaboration. On what could we collaborate ? Here are a few ideas.

Aggregation of outcomes data. I recently participated in a discussion about something that, while simple, could help us assess the true practice-level applicability and patient types of each of the learners. All it would entail is adding a few questions to the evaluation form. For example, asking how many patients with this condition learners see in their practice each month would allow providers to add a performance-level measurement. When done appropriately, this data could be combined with the results of other providers to begin to quantify and qualify the value of CME.

By discussing the possibility of collaborating on outcomes assessments, I’m not suggesting that every individual activity be aggregated with every other activity. However, there certainly are opportunities to identify times when combining data and performing a meta-analysis of sorts would tell us a whole lot more about the overall impact of CME than the evaluation of the individual component activities does. And, if designed correctly, we could really target the practitioners we can identify as reaching the largest number of patients. There are far more complex and far less sophisticated strategies that could be employed, and I leave it to the “outcomesologists” of the world to come up with not only the right methodologies but also suggestions as to how this might actually be realized.

Sharing of needs assessments. Once providers have finished using a needs assessment for documentation, files, proposals, and activity development, we could send the assessments to a national (or even global) repository for use by other providers and CME stakeholders. These documents would give providers a place to start, to learn from, incorporate, and yes, even plagiarize. If that seems like too much to give away, perhaps we could limit the shared documents to just the needs assessment titles and highlights. Providers interested in seeing the full document would have to contact the needs assessment’s “owner” to work out an approach for sharing and/or collaboration.

While some might argue that this would co-opt the activity-development process, if the ultimate goal of CME is to improve patient care, why not allow as many providers as possible to benefit from these materials?

Cross-promotion of CME activities. We have all heard that it requires multiple interventions before most learners make a behavioral change. If change in behavior is an objective of the CME activity, why not build in the opportunity for learners to find out about other activities with similar objectives, on similar topics, or that might be of interest to the learners?
Think of an Amazon.com for CME activities, only instead of highlighting books or toasters other like-minded consumers bought, we could suggest CME activities that relate to what they have already shown interest in. This would help learners find activities that match their identified needs when it comes to performance improvement CME and CME in general. And it might also help providers to identify opportunities to collaborate by identifying strengths that can balance weaknesses within their respective organizations.

Are these types of collaborations just a pipe dream? Should I just add them to my ever-growing CME Bucket List? Please e-mail your thoughts to me and I’ll share them in future issues.

Lawrence Sherman, FACME, CCMEP, is senior vice president, educational strategy, with Prova Education, an affiliate of Omnia Education, Fort Washington, Pa. He is a frequent lecturer on topics related to the strategic development, dissemination, and evaluation of CME activities. Reach him at LS@provaeducation.com.

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More of Lawrence Sherman’s columns:

Evaluating Live Versus Online CME

CME Needs a Hall of Fame

CME: The Next Generation

Social Networking and CME

Growing Pains