A group led by the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education is pushing forward with plans to create a research agenda that would examine the optimal ways to deliver and implement CME.

The effort began in 2007 when CME was being heavily scrutinized for having a perceived bias toward the pharmaceutical industry, and defenders could find little research about CME to combat that perception and provide evidence to the contrary, explains Melinda Steele, president, Confluence Educational Consulting, Lubbock, Texas. So officials from SACME, the Accreditation Council for CME, and the Mayo Clinic joined forces to create a Consensus Conference to address these issues, better align CME with the overall healthcare system, and improve CME. The group’s meetings resulted in several ideas for projects, including creating a research agenda for CME. SACME now is spearheading the development of the CME research agenda project.

Putting the Agenda in Writing

The SACME Consensus Group, as it is now called, is developing a paper that will outline the research agenda for CME. The team leading the consensus group includes Morris Blachman, PhD, assistant dean for CME, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia; Todd Dorman, MD, associate dean, director of CME, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore; Lois Colburn, executive director, Center for Continuing Education, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha; Gabrielle Kane, associate professor, Department of Medical Education and Biomedical Informatics, University of Washington, Seattle; and Steele.

The group expects to submit the paper for publication this year, most likely in the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. Steele wasn’t at liberty to discuss the contents of the paper, which is a work in progress, but the intention is that it will set the course for the research needs of the CME enterprise. For example, it might discuss the need for research about procedures, teaching methods, outcomes, delivery, performance improvement, etc.

“It’s research in and about CME—what’s effective, what’s not effective, how you can get the best outcomes assessment,” says Steele. “It’s really about process and methods.”

Funding the Project

“You can’t do research without funding, so we are looking for opportunities and investigating funding sources,” says Steele. The SACME Consensus Group already has seen interest from several organizations.

The idea, she says, is to create a funding pool to support research projects. Individuals or groups could apply for funding for specific research proposals. How the centralized pool will be administered and where it will be housed is not yet determined. It could be administered and distributed by SACME, but Steele is quick to point out that while SACME is launching the project, the society doesn’t own it.

Once the paper laying out the agenda is published later this year, “it will be out there pretty much for anybody to grab hold of the piece they want to participate in,” says Steele, whether it’s doing research projects or helping administer the project. “It’s all in the name of advancing the profession of CME and advancing the quality of healthcare,” she says.

Once the research agenda is well under way, the group will begin work on the next project—the strategic management of CME.

For more on the latest in continuing medical education, check out the Medical Meetings Rules and Regulations special report.