Good technology partners help make the online CME experience a better one for health care professionals. Here are a few examples:

When designing online CME, a perennial question is whether to require participants to download third-party software, such as RealPlayer or Windows Media, to watch video or slides. Will visitors to a CME site be willing to stop and download these products? If so, is one preferred over another?

At Mount Sinai School of Medicine (www.mssmtv.org) in New York City, the question is bypassed completely, because the school uses an online video delivery system that doesn't require any third-party software at all. Called VideoClipstream, the system was developed by Destiny Media Technologies, a Vancouver, B.C. — based software firm. According to Mark Toffoli, Destiny's vice president of sales, the Java-based technology of VideoClipstream works on 93 percent of computers connected to the Web. The product also automatically detects the participant's connection speed and chooses the most appropriate form of delivery. Toffoli also says VideoClipstream is one of very few video-streaming technologies that will work through a firewall — an important consideration for physicians who are accessing the site through a server network.

For Frederick Bobrow, director of educational technology for CME at Mount Sinai, the bottom line is ease of use. “With all the variables involved in streaming educational content, VideoClipstream allows [us to reach] the widest audience with the easiest video interface.”

e-Patients Enhance e-CME

At FamilyPractice.com, physicians can interview model patients presenting various symptoms, listen to heart murmurs, and hear medical experts lecture on such topics as pain management. The clean design of the pages, the sophisticated graphics, and the true interactive nature of the patient interview module — in which physicians can type in questions that the model patient answers — are all indications of a thoughtful education provider working closely with a powerful technology partner. In this instance, the educator is the American Board of Family Practice, and the technology provider is Kurzweil Technologies Inc. Their joint venture, the Medical Learning Company Inc. (MLCI), produces FamilyPractice.com. CME credit is available for some activities through the American Academy of Family Physicians or the University of Wisconsin — Madison Medical School, which participate as joint sponsors with MLCI.

The site is rich with additional features, including the ability to create custom Web sites for American Board of Family Practice diplomates, a service for tracking CME hours, free e-mail, and various forums (bulletin boards). A section of the site is devoted to practice management, including a remarkable decision-support section where physicians can follow flowcharts describing the conditions commonly seen by family physicians. Packaged with the decision support system is a series of online reference guides. Physicians can, for example, click on “alcohol abuse” and find a series of monographs about its diagnosis and treatment.

The most satisfying aspect of the FamilyPractice.com site experience is that, while it is clear that a prodigious amount of technology has been put to work, the technology is never highlighted for its own sake. In fact, everything on the site is designed for the learner.

More of Dave's Picks

Here are some other online CME sites worth seeing:

  • www.conferenceseek.com A live CME event finder now with online CME from Rush-Presbyterian — St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago

  • www.imaginis.com A breast health site for doctors and patients, sponsored by Siemens Health

  • www.orionha.com Online CME provider Orion Health Academy offers courses by subscription: $69.95 a year for all the courses a physician or nurse wants to take.