The day after the election I felt excited and energized about the potential for achieving healthcare reform in this country, and I think that CME and medical meeting professionals can play an important role in making this goal happen. With its focus on physician performance improvement, evidence-based medicine, and measurable outcomes, the priorities set forth in the Obama-Biden Plan for a Healthy America align with those of the CME community and the Accreditation Council for CME's updated accreditation criteria.
The Obama plan emphasizes the management and prevention of chronic illness through the implementation of patient-centered medical home models, an approach designed to create strong, long-term relationships between patients and healthcare teams. Consider how your CME activities can promote teamwork and patient empowerment. At a session at last year's National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration annual conference, presenters explained that it's legally complicated for pharmaceutical companies to provide funding for activities that combine patient and physician education. It's important for supporters to work on overcoming this obstacle, and for providers to find alternative funding sources for education that includes the patient as part of the team.
Echoing concerns expressed by many medical societies, the Obama plan prioritizes tackling disparities in healthcare. Think about how your CME activities can zero in on the needs of those who are underserved due to where they live, economic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Includingand content planners who represent these populations will strengthen your initiatives.
The reduction of medical errors is another aspect of the Obama plan; the agenda supports the development of new models for boosting safety and strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. CME activities can further these aims by training doctors about new safety measures. Teaching physicians how to effectively communicate with patients about errors can help reduce malpractice suits, and thus lower healthcare system costs.
Cost-cutting is a major imperative of the Obama plan. Since legislators perceive that pharmaceutical industry funding influences CME providers to produce activities that promote newer, more expensive treatments, regardless of whether they are most effective, it will be even more critical for CME professionals to demonstrate how they manage conflict of interest, and to gather outcomes measurement data.
There is much concern that the economic crisis threatens to derail any healthcare reform. On the other hand, congressional leaders such as Sens. Baucus and Kennedy say we can't afford not to fix the healthcare system. Regardless of how the reform agenda proceeds on Capiltol Hill, the CME community should push ahead. I encourage you to stay on top of the national healthcare debate, as well as state and local developments, and to participate in shaping your organization's strategy regarding these issues. As someone who educates practicing healthcare professionals, your leadership and perspective is crucial. Bring your expertise to the table and position your CME department as a valued asset that can help achieve public health goals — and move change forward.