It's unclear how or when the pharmaceutical industry became the new whipping boy for the press and Congress alike. Fair or unfair, this is the new reality, and since CME is largely funded by industry, we can expect the scrutiny to continue — even to intensify. Many of us are torn about how we should respond to the increasing criticism. Say too much, and we fear having the Congressional microscope turned on our own organizations. Say too little, and we fail to defend practices that improve healthcare and reduce costs. What is the best way to approach this dilemma? Let's start a constructive dialogue.
Some member groups seem outraged at the mere suggestion that they aren't being advocates for CME. But honestly, who is really going to bat for accredited providers, especially those who are pushing the envelope and demonstrating that CME can result in improved patient care? We all need to be innovators in this industry, not only to raise the performance bar, but also to inspire others to elevate it even further. We must apply more pressure to ensure that our success stories are showcased at national meetings and receive the media attention they deserve. Only then can we assume our place as catalysts for improvements in healthcare delivery.
Be Your Own Best Advocate
Some say success is the greatest revenge, and we agree. All providers must think and, more importantly, act outside the box. Seek non-traditional funding for your CME activities; it may take a bit more work, but those dollars are available. Request funding from multiple grantors to minimize the perception of bias toward one product or device.
Seek more collaborations, even among similar provider types. The truth is, no provider does everything equally well, has expertise in every therapeutic area, or is proficient in every educational format. Partnering can and should bring out the best in who we are and help us develop truly innovative and creative CME activities. We must collectively publish our educational outcomes data, but, even more importantly, we must have meaningful data to publish.
CME's True Value
Only if the right questions are asked can we obtain in-depth answers to evaluate the true impact of CME to society. While CME can result in a significant increase in the use of newer, sometimes more expensive, medications, there is a positive side to that outcome. For example, newer agents that modestly inhibit disease progression or minimize clinically significant episodes can appear insignificant in their benefit to patients, yet these benefits can result in fewer hospitalizations and increased productivity in the workplace, thus reducing society's financial burden.
On a daily basis, we meet individuals who have been silently touched by CME. The woman walking in the street who would have been debilitated by severe asthma, the custodian whose rheumatoid arthritis is in remission and can still work, and even closer to home — the beloved family member who, in her battle against advanced lung cancer, has responded to new therapies when standard chemotherapy had failed. In each instance, off-label use of agents, which is openly discussed in CME activities, has dramatically improved the lives of these individuals. These stories are now commonplace because of industry, government, and foundation support that has led to increased availability of CME. As providers, we must all work harder to ensure that clinicians continue to receive cutting-edge CME that addresses their validated educational needs, and that the benefits of CME to society are transparent to all. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Let's all heed that call.
Harold I. Magazine, PhD, president, Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc., Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., has a combined 18 years' experience in academic research, publications, and medical education. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ann C. Lichti, assistant operations director, Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc., has worked in continuing education for 4 years. Reach her at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not constitute the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc.