In October, Weston, Mass.–based medical education solution provider Medical Exchange announced plans to launch a healthcare event that will offer learning and networking opportunities for what the organizers believe to be the three key stakeholders in improving patient care: specialists, primary care physicians, and patients.

The event, called the CollaborativeCARE Conference, or C3, will include both certified continuing medical education—developed sans commercial support by Lighthouse Learning—and a marketplace for networking and business exchanges. The first C3 is scheduled to launch in November 2011 in Long Beach, Calif. That will be followed by five events in 2012, and the full annual 10-event national schedule will begin in 2013.

Medical Meetings recently caught up with Medical Exchange’s co-founder John Mooney, the former founder and CEO of M/C Communications, to learn more.

MM: C3 sounds pretty ambitious: a six-day conference that includes 12 specialty conferences, plus education for primary care physicians and patients, which will be held in 10 different cities over the course of a year. Why did you decide on this structure?

Mooney: I’ve always been a huge believer in regionally focused education. Our overarching philosophy is that medical knowledge is global, so what works for type 2 diabetes in Boston works for type 2 diabetes in Timbuktu. But the delivery of healthcare is local, and the delivery of knowledge that impacts patient care must be local as well.

In the three years I’ve been out of M/C Communications, the buzz I’ve been hearing has been about collaborative care, coordinated care, and improving the dialogue between and among the specialists, primary care, and patients. If you can increase and improve that dialogue, patients will be more compliant, which will lead to better patient outcomes, which will improve the effectiveness and lower the cost of healthcare. That was the driver behind starting C3.

The need for collaborative education is going to become even more acutely obvious when the healthcare reform initiative of having every American insured comes to fruition. If the healthcare system doesn’t work better and smarter and all the key stakeholders don’t learn to communicate better among themselves, we’re going to have some real problems. We believe we’re at the cutting edge of offering these physicians ways to be better collaborators with colleagues and patients.

MM: Explain a bit more about the educational piece of C3.

Mooney: There will be 12 specialty conferences—cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, infectious disease, nephrology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, psychiatry, pulmonary medicine, and rheumatology—held over the first three days of the conference. We also will have an overlapping four-day primary-care conference, and at the tail end will be two days of patient education. So the first four days are dedicated to doctors, and the last two to patients.

We have a content agreement with Lighthouse Learning, which has developed a curriculum for our program. The curriculum directors focused on our specialty areas first, then took the curriculum and messaging from the specialty areas and recreated them so that they made sense for primary care doctors. So it’s very specific for the specialties, then a little broader for primary care: “How do I recognize this problem? Do I treat it myself or do I refer it to a specialist or a hospital?” On the patient side, it addresses how to manage your life if you have a specific condition. There is one set of faculty creating the messaging across the three learner groups.

MM: Why did Medical Exchange choose to work with Lighthouse Learning?

Mooney: They have an advisory panel that represents the key areas of learning that need to be evident in the new world of CME: patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning, interpersonal communications skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice. Their 12 curriculum directors are extraordinary, and the faculty they’ve assembled is, in my opinion, unparalleled. It’s the editorial dream team.

I love their approach that healthcare needs to be more integrated and team-oriented, and that patients need to be involved in their own care. I’ve worked with [Lighthouse Learning President and CEO ] Jon Leibowitz in various capacities over the years, and I think he is the best of the best. I’m probably the biggest fan of Marty Samuels [Martin Samuels, MD, Lighthouse’s program director and founding chairman, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School]. He spoke at the first Pri-Med [a popular conference series for primary care physicians produced by M/C Communications], and at every one of them for the following 10 years. I once asked him why he does Pri-Med so often. He said, “It’s a passion of mine to educate primary care doctors about how to recognize, diagnose, and treat neurological disorders, and to know when to refer patients to specialists.” That has stayed with me.

MM: Given your background, do you seeany similarities between Pri-Med and C3?

Mooney: Both are providing excellent education, are regionally focused, and have a great team of professionals running the organizations. In terms of differences: Pri-Med’s focus is primary care providers, while ours is really the healthcare team.

We also will not allow single-sponsored CME activities at our conferences. We are not soliciting any grant dollars. We are soliciting promotional dollars only. There will be no breakfast, lunch, or dinner symposia supported by pharma companies. The CME activities will be provided by Lighthouse Learning, or perhaps also by an association or another education company around healthcare technology.

Another difference is that Pri-Med offers a more traditional trade show where exhibitors bring in their own booths. Our marketplace will give sponsors the opportunity to continue the learning process for the three audiences. We’re organizing the floor by specialty areas—there will be 12 clinical pavilions, a technology pavilion, and a catch-all pavilion. At the specialty pavilion, instead of bringing their own booths, exhibitors choose from a variety of booth and sponsorship options.

A study found that, while doctors love the information they get from exhibitors, they also find the show floor chaotic and hard to use. So we’re trying to make it easy for doctors to find what they need in the marketplace.

MM: Why did you pick now as a good time to launch C3?

Mooney: When healthcare reform is fully implemented and every American is insured, the demand for care will increase, which will put a big strain on the system. It almost dictates that we provide more collaborative care where specialists are talking to the primary-care doctors. The goal is better patient outcomes, and better outcomes will take a big chunk out of the costs of the healthcare system. We buy into that dream.

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