I know that CME professionals do good things. You know that CME professionals do good things. So why is that we so often find ourselves having to defend our industry and our profession? Why is it so easy for those outside—and, sadly, sometimes inside—our profession to believe that accredited providers automatically become a supporter’s marketing arm when they receive commercial support? And why doesn’t anyone call them on it when detractors take liberties with the data they use to skewer us? My favorite is when newspapers or bloggers write about behavior that occurred “as recently as 2005.” Holy Toledo! 2005 was light years ago when you’re talking about the complex and rapidly evolving milieu that influences the relationships between key opinion leaders, commercial supporters, and CME providers.
We know that, as a rule (and yes, there are exceptions), today’s CME is not an extension of brand marketing. The question is how to get this message to the clinicians and patients who benefit when education leads to improvements in clinical performance. How do we best advocate for our profession to these audiences, not to mention to those in the regulatory/legislative systems?
Celebrate the Outcomes
While the usual back-and-forth about who is right and who is wrong provides endless material for bloggers, it rarely advances a cause. Our industry is best served by advocacy that celebrates the innovation and educational impact—outcomes—that have resulted from well-done CME.
One might say advocacy would best be spearheaded at a national level so that the message represents the overall provider group, is well thought out, polished, and consistent. The organizational missions of the National Association of Medical Education Companies and the Alliance for CME include advocating for providers on issues facing their memberships. Each group has volunteers and advocacy committees to respond to challenges that arise. Unfortunately, “respond” is often the operative word. Proactive advocacy might better serve our industry. We need consistent and proactive advocacy at multiple levels—certainly from national organizations, but maybe even more importantly at the grassroots level.
You may be thinking, “I don’t disagree, but who has time?” Granted, advocacy can be hard work, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot of work. At its core, CME advocacy is about having a powerful, resonant, and relevant message about how our work affects physician behavior and patient health. How can we best get that message to those who need to hear it?
In July 2010, a group of CME professionals convened via conference call to brainstorm ideas for a grassroots advocacy effort. We wanted to find ways to change the perception of CME that is rooted in the relatively few stories of abuse. We agreed that there was a need to connect emotionally with the public through stories that show the value of CME, and how it can change clinician behavior and patient health for the better. So often we take pride in the comments that our learners relate about how the education affected their patients, and we share and celebrate these internally with our staff. But are these stories routinely communicated to our supporters, other participants, and the public in general? As vested stakeholders in the continuing viability of CME, aren’t they entitled to share in these success stories?
Each day, in planning committees, conference calls, and with each grant submission, providers are challenging their programs to deliver innovative, engaging education that is raising the bar for all. And if, after participating in a CME activity, a clinician initiates a structured screening tool to uncover an illness, uses an established guideline or quality measure in treatment decision-making, or is moved to measure something he or she has never measured before, then CME has made a difference and had an impact on patient health.
What’s your story? Please share it. Be an advocate for CME.
Jan Perez, CCMEP, is managing partner, operations, content, and faculty, with CME Outfitters LLC in Rockville, Md. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.