Editor’s Note: After addressing some of the key findings of the recent CME Crossroads white paper on page 25, we asked our columnist, who is one of its authors, to provide his perspective, based on the white paper research, on how the CME enterprise can be more productive in the future.

For a combination of reasons, the CME enterprise has gone through its own “dark age” during the past five years. There was plenty of confusion over the difference between certified CME and other forms of information and education. Despite a lack of evidence, people accepted negative accusations about CME and commercial support.

The conflict became great fodder for news reports and congressional hearings. And the CME enterprise took a lot of bad press—mostly for unethical practices outside the CME arena. In every case cited about poor quality CME, the evidence came from one of five activities that was managed and delivered prior to the 2006 accreditation criteria updates set forth by the Accreditation Council for CME.

Keys for Success
In response to the criticism and negativity, accredited providers, CME grant funders, the ACCME, and education partners worked together to implement new ideas and an improved approach to ensure the continued quality of CME. My co-authors and I reviewed thousands of pages of CME commentary to research the CME Crossroads white paper. We combined that analysis with a series of interviews and discussions with CME thought leaders to identify these keys for a successful future:

  • Move from defense to offense. The CME enterprise must more aggressively apply evidence-based thinking to CME criticism. When we identify real problems, we should continue to address them. When we hear and see arguments based on accusation alone, we should publicly reject them. The CME enterprise will grow only by zealously communicating about the impact that CME has on improving professional practices.
  • Collaboration 2.0: Partnerships of necessity are beginning to lead to partnerships of mutual benefit and interdependence. True collaboration that leverages each partner’s strength (e.g., adult learning expertise, faculty connection, audience generation, outcomes measurement) will return a greater value to participants, patients, and those who help underwrite the costs of these activities.
  • Transparency will set us free: The outside world does not understand the CME microcosm. The amount of trust we earn is partially dependent on the amount of transparency we provide regarding CME policies, procedures, and management of activities.

The CME dark ages are coming to an end. We may see another annual decrease in total CME funding between 2009 and 2010, but most analysts see growth for CME in 2012 and beyond. Why? Because there are so many educational needs. CME is a proven tool for closing professional practice gaps. The ACCME is more vigilant in its approach to maintaining compliance with standards and guidelines. And the marginal operators—whether they be faculty, accredited providers, partners, or funders—can’t survive in today’s quality-based environment.

Do you want still another reason to be optimistic about CME? History tells us that the end of the dark ages led to the beginning of the enlightenment. Onward to the next era.

Stephen M. Lewis, MA, CCMEP, is president of Colorado-based Global Education Group. Free printed and electronic copies of the CME Crossroads white paper are available at www.globaleducationgroup.com.

More of Stephen's columns:
A New Trajectory for CME?
Is It Time to Thank the ACCME?
Ad Raises Commercial Questions