The down economy has begun to take its toll on CME. Instead of fearing the unknown and looking at change as something negative, let's come up with some positive strategies that will help us survive in these challenging economic times and in the years to come.

Go Local

Why not address the needs of physicians in your local community? If you've identified a national need, the chances are good that physicians at the local level are experiencing the same practice gaps. Instead of proposing a single national conference with participants from multiple regions, try partnering with a local hospital to have a series of institutional lectures for physicians in your home town. This will mean lower travel costs for your staff and possibly, faculty, if they are also affiliated with the hospital in which you will hold the activities. Having participants who are colleagues in the same institution may itself be a catalyst for encouraging more rapid adoption of the educational content. From the perspective of educational outcomes measurement, it may be easier to measure practice changes and patient outcomes for a targeted group of physicians and their patients.

Strength in Diversity

We are still too focused on what type of provider should be allowed to certify CME activities. A more positive and productive approach is to collectively determine what each provider type does well. Are medical education and communication companies better at developing enduring materials? Are specialty societies more adept at developing symposia for their own national congresses? Are academic institutions more skilled at implementing Internet point-of-care activities and performance-improvement initiatives? Through collaboration among all provider types, we can refine the scope of our activities and focus on the content areas, and educational formats, methods, and media that best match our strengths.

Trimming the Fat

Just as many of us are looking for ways to stretch our paychecks, we should be looking for strategies to reduce the cost of our CME activities.

  • Breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

    The type of meals offered at symposia vary in cost. Typically, breakfast is the least expensive option, so perhaps consider holding a morning meeting to keep the cost down.

  • Trim production costs

    Have you ever scanned the meeting space after a conference? More often than not, the syllabi are discarded. Sending an electronic copy of the syllabus to pre-registrants is one way of keeping production costs low. Try printing double-sided and restricting the use of color to reprints of figures/graphics or for the cover.

  • Maximize your activity materials

    Advertise upcoming activities in your conference syllabi to help bolster recruitment and offer more bang for the buck. Instead of developing a six-color, trifold invitation, try a save-the-date card, followed by an e-mail or fax blast.

Opportunities Ahead

Just as America saw tremendous innovation after the great depression, these difficult economic times might be the creative spark that the CME industry needs to forge lasting advancements. Change is inevitable. How we deal with change is what will ultimately define us.

Ann C. Lichti, CCMEP, is the vice president of Health Care Education Strategy for Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc., Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. She has a combined seven years experience in medical education and clinical research. Reach her at ann.lichti@veritasime.com.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not constitute the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc.