Personalized medicine offers many promising new approaches to healthcare. Now that practitioners understand signaling pathways, biomarkers, and other molecular data, they can identify patients who are at risk of developing a disease, predict how they’ll respond to treatment, and choose the optimal therapy based upon the patient and disease characteristics.

Data analysis, which is the common thread in personalized medicine, holds similar implications for continuing medical education. Multiple published survey results show trends in the CME educational format physicians prefer. Providers can use these data to analyze their own educational activities to uncover learning patterns and identify opportunities to tailor education based on these trends.

Translational Research Approach
As the economic downturn continues to affect grant funding, CME providers should be seeking ways to reduce the cost of our activities. Providers are doing this by selecting less-expensive venues for live courses, offsetting conference costs with registration fees, or offering more webinars and fewer multiday conferences. Providers can go a step further and assess the effectiveness of their collective activities based on multiple parameters. When analyzing these results, we can begin asking targeted questions like:

  • Are certain formats more effective at improving knowledge vs. competence, performance, or patient or population health outcomes?
  • Are there differences in the way physicians learn relative to their clinical specialty or practice setting?
  • How many interventions are needed to facilitate changes in behavior?
  • What topics or faculty do clinicians gravitate toward?

By starting to identify these trends within our CME programs, providers can begin moving toward a personalized education model that addresses the individual challenges faced by our learners. We can also eliminate ineffective formats and exclude topics that aren’t relevant to our learners by targeting our approach to CME initiatives.

Increasing Collaborations
Instead of looking at differing provider types as competitors, look for opportunities to collaborate. For example: A medical education/communication company and a local hospital could work together solely on audience generation. By establishing a reciprocal advertising arrangement with the hospital, the MECC could provide links (via the hospital’s intranet) to specific online CME activities. The MECC could communicate with the hospital’s continuing education department to identify ongoing quality improvement initiatives or other gaps/needs that are synergistic with those online activities. The local hospital, in return, could agree to open its Regularly Scheduled Conference to selected clinicians from the MECC’s participant database who have an interest in those topics. While not every activity warrants collaboration, providers should continue seeking out innovative partnerships that share resources, expand the reach of our activities, and identify common gaps and needs.

Affordable Health Care and Education
Just as personalized medicine seeks to find the optimal therapeutic agents for the appropriate patient based on genetics and molecular biology, personalized education aims to provide the most relevant information at the right time for the appropriate clinician in the optimal setting. If the results equate to cost-effective education with increased participation rates and higher-level outcomes, it’s a win for all CME stakeholders.

Ann C. Lichti, CCMEP, is the director of accreditation and compliance for Physicians’ Education Resource®, LLC (PER). Reach her at alichti@gotoper.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not constitute the views of PER.