During the “Transformational Leadership” workshop held during the 2010 Alliance for Continuing Medical Education in New Orleans in January, Robert D. Fox, EdD, professor, adult and higher education, University of Oklahoma, Norman, used the “Situation, Task, Action, Result,” or STAR, interviewing technique to learn from the expert panel. Using the same approach, CME providers and our entire industry can begin to look at the challenges facing us, identify some specific areas on which to focus, map out a plan of action, and determine the results.

Facing the Funding Challenge

Funding is the largest issue the CME industry faces. Debating which model — pharma/device manufacturers vs. nontraditional (foundations and government) vs. self-pay — sets up the assumption that one of them is the most viable. Maybe our approach should be that all are viable at different points in an educational activity cycle. For example, providers could seek industry support for the planning and development stages since the time frame to receive those grants is generally shorter. Participants themselves could pick up some of the costs if providers charged a nominal fee for their activities to cover the cost of syllabi, meeting space (let's keep it modest), and faculty honoraria (let's keep this modest as well). Foundation and government support, which generally takes much more time to secure, could be used to pay for outcomes studies that take place at the end of the activity timeline.

Learning from Success (and Failure)

Last year, approximately 142 accredited providers went out of business or chose not to renew their accreditation status. I believe providers have a responsibility to help one another remain viable through increased collaboration. This is not only good for business in general, but it also sends a message that the state of our CME union is strong, united, and compliant. We are now more unified as a result of the consolidation of providers. Continued support for credentialed CME professionals (CCMEPs) will help us further by our valuing our competencies as professionals and validating that we are qualified to help educate America's physicians.

Plan of Action

We should maintain the focus on CME activities that can truly demonstrate improved patient health. We should also continue using traditional CME as a foundation that builds and reinforces clinical knowledge and encourages the adoption of evidence-based medicine when clinically appropriate. We must use our educational outcomes data to drive support for future activities if we want to sustain our industry. Tying all providers' varied CME activities into a larger continuing professional development curriculum would be a great goal to strive for.

Leaders Wanted

We all have the potential to lead. At a time when funding is down, government scrutiny of our industry is unrelenting, and the future seems uncertain, we must collectively challenge ourselves to chart a course leading to success. Let us remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ann C. Lichti, CCMEP, is the vice president of health care education strategy for Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc. Reach her at ann.lichti@veritasime.com.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not constitute the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc.