Consider what we have learned in the past year. First, change affects everyone. The confluence of increasing media scrutiny, U.S. Senate investigations, transparency, and stricter enforcement of policies and guidelines has improved many practices while pushing a number of medical education companies, hospitals, societies, and academic centers to abandon continuing medical education.

Yesterday's Competitors, Today's Partners

The result? Partnerships abound. Over the past two months, I've been a part of collaborative discussions and developments that play on the strengths of multiple organizations.

One example: A professional society identified educational gaps and member needs. The society worked with a medical education company and a network of hospitals to design regional and national CME initiatives. A technology company worked with biostatisticians from the accredited provider to design outcomes at the outset and develop excellent grant requests. In short, yesterday's competitors are today's partners.

As we turn the theory of collaboration into practice and build the new House of CME, leading organizations need to incorporate the following elements in the construction design:

  • Innovation equals financial success

    In the past 10 years, organizations leading the charge toward more cost-effective solutions and educational formats — including Web-based education, multimedia teleconferences, interactive modeling, and local/regional live meetings — have been the most financially successful. Pioneering and investing in innovation in the areas of education delivery, instructional design, and educational outcomes measurement is no longer a differentiator, it's a requirement.

  • Great CME requires a mixture of public and private company voices

    From universities and education companies to academic centers and societies, we all are in the business of CME. The robust “marketplace of ideas” envisaged by the U.S. Supreme Court is the best mechanism to broaden perspectives and address strategic solutions to healthcare problems.

  • Designing and delivering great CME requires a full-time commitment

    Successful medical education programs can no longer be treated as extensions of other departments or operations; CME must be the core focus. Organizing a CME program as an independent business has an additional benefit. The staff members of an independent CME program have every reason to abide by the accreditation rules and guidelines set forth by Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. If they lose their accreditation status or ability to have education certified, independent CME programs are out of business.

Let's face it. Our House of CME has been battered by storm after storm during the past years. We have an opportunity to rebuild with better materials requiring fewer repairs. If we collaborate as quality organizations — public or private, academic or field-based — we will advance science and medicine in the marketplace of ideas and build a house that stands the tests of time and scrutiny ahead.

Stephen M. Lewis, MA, CCMEP, is president of Littleton, Colo.-based Global Education Group, and president-elect of the North American Association of Medical Education and Communication Companies. Reach him at slewis@globaleducationgroup.com.

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The Government’s View on Continuing Medical Education