Continuing medical education providers, attendees, and funders are all seeking the same goal: meaningful outcomes that demonstrate the true value of continuing education.

The question is, how can we continue to improve our program success? Based on recent survey results, the answers are right in front of us.

By asking a handful of questions to funding organizations, physicians, and nurses, my CME/CE team has been able to compile survey data over the past six months that help identify areas for continued improvement and new ways to demonstrate the value of what we do.

Funder Feedback
Funders can’t control or help manage CME programs, but their feedback regarding the usefulness of specific data points we already were collecting was helpful. Survey feedback from 44 funders representing both commercial and noncommercial interests showed changes in attitudes.

They said that the number of CME/CE attendees at activities remains a helpful metric. But more emphasis is being placed on details, including

  • the number of learners who intend to make practice changes,
  • results of practice changes following the educational activities, and
  • the number of potential patients affected by the activities.

If you aren’t already asking about patient impact, a question for all attendees is, “Of the patients you will see in the next week, about how many will benefit from the information you learned today?” A simple calculation will identify an annual patient impact indicator score from the learner’s perspective.

Physician Perspectives
Surveys of physicians and nurses also yielded insightful results. A May 2012 survey conducted with colleagues at Rutgers University allowed us to collect responses from 902 physicians and nurses. Highlights included the following:

  • 88 percent stated that accredited CME programs “directly impact patient care.”
  • 84 percent stated they would “benefit by participating in more accredited CME activities” addressing their specific therapeutic areas of practice.
  • 75 percent said they apply information learned from CME to patient treatment “often” or “very often.”

Compared to other forms of information to which physicians and nurses have access, CME consistently ranks the highest. This is true both for professionals who are past attendees of our programs, as well as those who have not attended our programs.

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “least valuable” and 5 is “most valuable,” the 902 physicians and nurses surveyed ranked the professional practice value of accredited CME against several other forms of information/education. In terms of “improving practice,” the scores were clear.

Accredited CME ranked the highest in value at 4.8. The closest competition came from speaker bureau programs ranked at 3.5. “Other promotional and non-certified education” ranked 2.6. Sales representative visits averaged 2.5.
We don’t have all the answers. But the more questions we ask, the more we can improve our collective understanding of what makes CME valuable. 

Stephen M. Lewis, MA, CCMEP, is president of Littleton, Colorado–based Global Education Group. He can be reached at

More of Stephen's Columns:
Social Media Is Not the Message

The One-Word Future of CME

AMA Logic Harms Medicine

As Goes Healthcare, So Goes CME

Welcome to the CME Business

Ringing In a New Era for CME

REMS: A New Trajectory for CME?