It’s the day after we Americans went to the polls to decide who’s going to Congress and who’s going back to the drawing board. Like everyone else, I’ve got some serious campaign fatigue, having been bombarded with advertising about how horrible the other guy/gal is, how our country will basically implode if this person or that is elected. There has been so much misinformation, outright lying, and information taken out of context and spun 180 degrees that it’s hard to cut through it all to get to the truth of what all these candidates have actually said and done and stand for. But the main tenet of campaigning 101 seems to be that if you say something loudly and often enough, people will come to believe it. We see it happen every election cycle.
And we see it every time a story breaks that involves some sort of relationship between continuing medical education providers and industry. The difference is that, in politics, all sides mount their campaigns and flood the airways with their spin on the issues. When it comes to this industry, outside of the echo chambers that are our industry organizations and conferences and a few vocal exceptions, the only folks you see on the stump are those who vehemently oppose any collaboration between industry and healthcare professionals.
I hope that John Kamp, Executive Director of the New York-based Coalition for Healthcare Communication, is right with the prediction he gave at the opening of the National Conference of the Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration, held in October in Baltimore: “The heyday for the criticism of CME has peaked, and maybe passed.” If he’s right—which most I spoke with at the meeting hope for, even if most also didn’t believe that was the case—maybe it’s because the reasons for criticism are just starting to age out of eligibility for prime time attention. After all, most of the wrongdoing was done prior to stepped-up regulation by the organizations that accredit, represent, or govern industry and CME providers—and increased self-regulation. Maybe it’s because the total dollar amounts supporters are supplying to CME providers are dropping, according to the Accreditation Council for CME’s most recent data. Maybe the news media is just moving on to other juicy corporate targets for a while, although PrePublica’s splashy hit on physician/industry financial ties released just a week after the Task Force conference seems to belie the idea that Big Pharma isn’t still big fun to go after.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’re getting data about how commercial support actually doesn’t result in biased education. Could it be it’s because more CME activities are being able to demonstrate that physicians and other healthcare providers actually do learn how to care for patients better as a result of the activities?
Whether or not the criticism backs down, we have a lot of good stories to tell about how CME results in improvements in patient care. It’s time to start telling them—loudly and often.
So, what's your story?