Let's face it — we're all looking for something or someone. When it comes to CME, it is especially true for learners, educators, providers, and supporters. The problem is, how do we find each other? We know what we want, but we may not know who we want. Or we know who we want, but not what we want. According to my single friends, it's almost like dating!
At least those singles have resources to match them with other singles based on specific criteria. They have e-Harmony.com and match.com, to name a few. We need CME-Harmony.com. Dr. Neil Clark Warren (admit it, you know exactly who he is) has done a great job of letting the singles of the world know that there is a resource (OK, a paid service) that will help them find compatible suitors. How do we in CME find what or whom we are looking for?
Are You the One That I Want?
During a recent conference, a commercial supporter whom I have known for many years asked me, “How do we find the good providers?” My jaw dropped! I had never thought about it from the supporter's perspective. I had always assumed that supporters were inundated with more calls from accredited and non-accredited providers than they could ever want. I thought supporters were in the driver's seat. It never occurred to me that supporters, even the most visible of the lot, weren't finding the right providers to fit their specific criteria.
In the bad old days, we providers didn't always find supporters (or at least their assigned representatives) that were looking to fund education — they were looking to fund better marketing through education. In the current environment, we as providers are trying to find the appropriate contact medium and method when reaching out to supporters. Some insist on prescreening, while others want no formal contact. Still others want all transactions online, while some prefer a live presentation and hard-copy grants. The list of CME idiosyncrasies goes on and on.
Further, I think two more levels of relationships need help. First, providers need to be able to find other providers with whom they can collaborate. We hear the word collaboration a lot, but providers tend to shy away from it. For as long as I can remember, providers have tried to do as much as possible on their own, even if there is a paucity of experience. The right environment and trust in the collaboration might foster these relationships. Providers with certain skill sets can find other providers with compatible yet different skill sets with the ultimate goal of improving the education that they develop.
Supporters themselves may benefit from establishing relationships with other supporters. There are many examples of supporters with common needs; perhaps these needs can lead to financial collaboration. Many believe that when multiple supporters contribute to activities and/or initiatives, the perception or reality of bias is mitigated.
So, how do we find compatible organizations? Does a resource need to be created that provides a qualified database that is searchable and sortable? And if it ever is created, who should own it? If a provider creates it, would that provider be perceived as doing it to advance his own interests? If supporters fund it, does it remove the necessary independence? Should we advertise? Do we all need to have booths at the Alliance meeting? The North American Association of Medical Education and Communication Companies is beginning to compile a list of its member organizations, with self-reported areas of competence and expertise. Although not all-inclusive, and limited to self-reporting, this is a great start. I look forward to seeing the results of these efforts and possibly finding new and creative ways to collaborate.
Remember: Talk is cheap, advice is free, but collaboration is priceless!
Lawrence Sherman, FACME, is CEO, Physicians Academy for Clinical and Management Excellence, New York. A 12-year CME veteran, Sherman is an Accreditation Council for CME site surveyor. He was a stand-up comedian in a previous life. Contact him at LS@physacad.com.