I recently had the honor of speaking at the TEDxMaastricht conference in the Netherlands. The theme of the conference was the future of health, with a sub-theme of patient involvement. I was tasked with speaking about the future of medical education, including the role of patients in medical education overall. And I had to do it in 16 minutes—which is the time it usually takes me to get through my opening remarks. This was going to be a challenge.

Having no idea where to begin, I looked at other TED talks on the Internet. (If you are not familiar with the TED conferences, I encourage you to look into them.) I saw that the best TED presentations kept slides to a minimum, maximized audience engagement, and had compelling messages. I decided the best way to cram all the information I wanted to present into such a short time frame would be to do it in the form of a story.
My story centered on what needs to change in medical education. I realized that, while we in CME do our best to develop case-based education and use virtual patients in activities, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a role for patients in the entire continuum of CME.

Social Media Is Part of the Story
Social media can help us reach patients and patient advocacy organizations from the very beginning of activity development. We can develop common links between educators and patients by posting questions on Facebook pages, querying the appropriate Twitter followers, and using Twitter hashtags. This dialogue also can give healthcare providers valuable and often-overlooked information about patient-level needs. Providers then can use this patient-level data to develop curricula that will help address their needs.

When implementing CME activities, why not use actual patients for case presentations instead of creating virtual or representative patients? There are even examples of patients being used as presenters at CME activities to provide learners with a better understanding of the patient journey, and to convey where they see the need for provider-level education. Because this is nontraditional, it has to be developed so that the learners derive maximum value from the information presented. [Editor’s note: see “Ethical Hypothetical” for more on involving patients in CME activities, including some caveats.]

Agree or Disagree?
When I mentioned involving patients in the medical education continuum during my TEDx talk, most in the room agreed with the idea, but that may be because the audience was coming from primarily a patient-level perspective. The TEDxMaastricht presentation was uploaded onto YouTube by the TEDx organization (you can view it here) and I was surprised to see how many people were interested in the topic. I was also intrigued by the comments that were posted; most were positive, but one person said that this was old news and has been done for over 20 years. I am not sure that I agree with the latter point, but at least the talk and now the video are getting people thinking about patient involvement in medical education.

I closed my talk by telling the 900-plus people in the room that it wasn’t just any old story; it was a story about all of us—because we are now, or will at some time be, patients.
Moving forward, I am most interested to see how clinicians feel about involving patients in the medical education continuum. I am also really interested in how my fellow medical educators feel about this topic. Will you use more patient-level data in needs assessments? Will you incorporate patients into activity planning? Where else do you feel that patients can help us to provide physicians and other healthcare professionals with the best education that will improve patient outcomes? Tweet me @meducate on Twitter or e-mail LS@provaeducation.com and let me know.

Lawrence Sherman, FACME, CCMEP, is senior vice president, educational strategy, with Prova Education, an affiliate of Omnia Education, Fort Washington, Pa. He is a frequent lecturer on topics related to the strategic development, dissemination, and evaluation of CME activities. Reach him at LS@provaeducation.com.

More of Lawrence's columns:
Defining Discipline for CME

A Call for Collaboration Among CME Providers
Evaluating Live Versus Online CME