More physicians obtain CME by attending meetings than by any other means, according to preliminary figures from Medical Meetings' eighth annual survey of physician preferences in CME (to be published in the January/February 2001 issue). Physicians earned, on average, 50.8 hours of Category 1 credit in the survey period of September 1999 to September 2000. They earned 37.9 percent of those hours by attending meetings that required travel, and 26.8 percent by attending meetings that did not require travel. The balance of hours were earned by reading journals (18.3 percent), using CD-ROM or the Internet (6.1 percent), or in other ways (9.6 percent, chiefly audio- and videotapes).

In short, as has been the case ever since we started this study in 1993, physicians look to meetings to obtain most of their CME.

These findings are hardly a call for complacency. Medical conference organizers must fight for every attendee against competition that is far stronger than the Internet: Physicians, even more than the rest of us, are time-impoverished these days. There are literally a thousand ways for them to spend precious hours other than at your medical conference.

In this issue, you'll find a common theme in the stories of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (see our cover story, page 26), the Pri-Med Show (page 37), and the report on the latest Conference on CME Provider/Industry Relations (page 33). That theme is the glaring evidence that physicians have come to realize that time really is money. Nurses and primary-care physicians want top value for their dollars when they attend meetings - including educational credit for experiences they define as educational. As you'll read in the cover story, some physicians, according to David Lichtenauer, president of Medical Education Consultants in Indianapolis, now want to be paid for their time to sit and listen to a pharmaceutical detailer's pitch.

Whether you organize meetings for a medical association, a hospital, a biomedical firm, or any of the various permutations of medical education/communication companies, the upshot of all this - the scarcity of time, the desire for credits, the pressure of feeling there's a price tag on every hour of the day - is that your meetings must deliver value, as perceived by the physicians and other health care professionals you serve.

With our annual survey - and with every issue of this magazine - we're trying to present valuable information that will make you a better medical conference organizer. It's our way of saying that we value your time, too.

Tamar Hosansky will be back next issue.