Healthcare educators and academics from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation say that one of the keys to fixing what they see as the problems in continuing medical education is to eliminate commercial support.

The controversial conclusion was put forth in a paper the New York City-based foundation--founded in 1930 to improve medical education--released this month. The findings in the paper are based on discussions that took place at a conference the foundation sponsored on the subject in November.

The paper, called “Chairman’s Summary Of the Conference,” states that commercial support should be phased out over a five-year period because commercial supporters and healthcare professionals have “inherently conflicting interests” and commercial support “risks distorting the educational content and invites bias.” Funding should come from individual health professionals, their employers (including academic health centers, healthcare organizations, and group practices), and noncommercial supporters, the paper says.

The paper also posits that too much CME is lecture-based and recommends a shift toward more practice-based learning. It also says that the current system does not promote enough interprofessional collaboration. Among other recommendations, the foundation also calls for the creation of a national continuing education institute to promote “the discovery and dissemination of more effective methods of educating health professionals over their professional lifetimes and foster the most effective and efficient ways to improve knowledge, skills, attitudes, practice, and teamwork.”

Suzanne W. Fletcher, MD, MSc, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass., chaired the meeting, which was attended by nearly 35 physicians, primarily from colleges, universities, and associations. While one of the participants cited his affiliation as the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education, the Alliance for CME did not participate in the development of the report. “The Alliance for CME does not endorse the recommendations included in the report,” officials said in a statement. “The Alliance for CME believes the report includes broad generalizations of divisive issues that have not been studied, and we believe it may not be in the best interests of the broader CME community.”

A more detailed account of the proceedings, along with the background papers, will be published by the foundation in late 2008. To read the full report, go to the foundation’s Web site at www.josiahmacyfoundation.org. If you have any thoughts on the paper that you’d like to share with us, contact Medical Meetings Editor Tamar Hosansky.