The biggest concern facing Pharmaceutical industry CME professionals is how to prove their value within their companies, a proposition that's becoming much more difficult because of the increasing government scrutiny of commercially-supported CME, according to the results of a survey of attendees at the Pharmaceutical Alliance for CME member section meeting. The meeting was convened during the Alliance for CME annual conference in Orlando, held January 19 to 22, which attracted a record 2,100 attendees.

“As long as that scrutiny is there, it's hard to make the case to executives,” said Jennifer Spear Smith, PhD, executive director, Professional Education Support Department, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Collegeville, Pa. The entire CME community has to prove CME's value to federal regulators, but industry professionals must also make the case to their internal executives. If they don't, said Smith, it will become harder and harder to justify the need for CME funding. Smith made her comments during a panel on the conference's last day, where members of each Alliance section presented their group's major challenges.

Get Out the Outcomes

In response to the tightening regulatory environment, pharmaceutical companies have separated their education and marketing divisions during the past few years. While the government has responded positively, ironically, those changes have created an obstacle for CME professionals. Because of the firewalls, medical education departments are put in a “black box,” and have little communication with other departments, said participants at the PACME session.

One speaker said it's important to give executives a better understanding of educational strategies and most importantly, the positive effect of commercially supported CME activities. Outcomes data will contribute to the direct understanding of how CME affects patient care, said Smith. At Wyeth, for example, an internal study showed that about 7 million patients were positively affected as a result of Wyeth-funded CME.

One participant had an open house where CME staff showcased the education department, presenting outcomes data. “Celebrate your successes,” she said.

Don't Be a Black Box

It's also important to keep company executives apprised of CME regulations and trends, via a newsletter or electronic means, for example, so they understand the environment for CME professionals. “Don't be a black box,” said one speaker. “Demonstrate your knowledge.”

Another participant recommended putting together a list of frequently asked questions about CME so executives have knowledge at their fingertips when asked questions by clients or associates.

Get Beyond Pessimism

During the Alliance for CME's closing day panel, attendees across the spectrum of CME provider groups expressed similar concerns to the PACME participants. The tumultuous events of the past year, including the U.S. Senate Finance Committee's report criticizing CME, have left many professionals questioning their future. One attendee said the current environment is making more CME professionals assess themselves, their value, and the role they play in the big picture. “Who are we as CME professionals?” she asked.

While participants usually come away from the Alliance meeting feeling positive and energized, this year, many felt confused and disheartened, said Melinda Steele, Med, director, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, who represented the medical schools section group during the panel. “We need to turn that around. We are doing important work; we've got to be a positive voice for the enterprise.”

Moderator Ed Dellert, RN, MBA, vice president, educational resources, American College of Chest Physicians, Northbrook, Ill., and chair of the Alliance member sections, offered three suggestions. Dellert said CME professionals should, one, advocate for educational outcomes and call for more medical education research based upon evidence-based principles; two, educate their leadership about pedagogic techniques used for the adult learner and define the educational impact that results from their programs; and three, train faculty in adult-learning principles. “As educators, we need to highlight the value our education brings to the healthcare system,” he said.

More conference coverage begins on page 24.

Pulse:

  • Norman B. Kahn Jr., MD, has been named executive vice president at the Council of Medical Specialty Societies in Lake Bluff, Ill. Previously, he served as vice president, science and education, American Academy of Family Physicians, Leawood, Kan.

  • Meeting Logistics Management, Atlanta, has appointed Brandy Lewis, CMP, director of business development, responsible for the healthcare sector. She had been director of client services, Medical Education Collaborative, Golden, Colo.

Pharma Funds More Outcomes

An instant response poll at the Pharmaceutical Alliance for CME member section meeting revealed that companies are moving in the direction of funding CME projects that include outcomes measurement.

  • A majority of respondents, 43 percent, estimated that about 25 percent of the grants their companies support include a measurement component.

  • Another 15 percent said about 50 percent of the grants they award include measurement.

  • Eighteen percent of respondents said 100 percent of the grants funded by their companies include outcomes measurement.