In the first of a series of webinars produced by the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education, a panel of CME leaders addressed ways to incorporate CME into the “big picture” at their organizations.

If your organization's mission is to improve patient care, then you need to reach out to hospital leaders to let them know that CME can help them accomplish that goal, said panelist Carol Havens, MD, director of clinical education, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, San Francisco. She called it having an “elevator story”--being able to succinctly describe in the length of time it takes to ride an elevator with your colleague--the value your CME program brings to physicians and the organization.

To get that leadership buy-in, added panelist Billie Dalrymple, director of CME, Texas Medical Association, Austin, you have to know the needs of the organization, or “what’s on the dashboard.” You can find out by checking with physicians and course directors to get their input on areas of need, but the conversation has to go beyond that, she said. You need to help physicians discover what they don’t know in a safe, nonthreatening manner, she said. In other words, gaps may exist that they aren’t aware of. To identify these gaps, the panelists suggested asking indirect questions like: What type of patients do you refer most often? What patients keep you up at night? What type of patients do you think your colleagues have the most problems with? The answers may reveal gaps that CME professionals can address with educational solutions.

Another way that CME professionals can contribute to the big picture of patient care is by using their strengths as educators. “Your role as a CME professional is to take great scientists and content experts and help them become superior communicators and educators,” said panelist Jann Balmer, PhD, director, CME, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Va. By doing this, you’re helping the physicians they reach to become better practitioners.

The webinar took place on February 20. Up next, the Alliance will hold a one-hour webinar on April 16 called How to Write a Mission Statement and Stick To It. For more information, visit ACME's Web site.