I’ve talked with leaders at hospitals, academic centers, medical education companies, societies, and even industry funders and government organizations. The future of CME reads like something you’d see on an old bumper sticker: “Know Value, Know CME. No Value, No CME.”

Department budgets are being cut. Government and industry funding isn’t picking up anytime soon. The only way to ensure our success across the continuing professional development field, and to demonstrate our value to Congress and the public, is to show the real impact CME has on participants.

But how do we spread the good news about CME? Here are three suggestions gleaned from recent discussions with CME stakeholders and results from a survey my organization conducted of more than 50 industry grant funders.

1. Measure. The number of butts in seats only matters when we accurately measure the effect our education has on the brains they’re attached to. Replace standard evaluation questions with ones that measure potential patient impact or practice changes.

Ask “How many of your patients over the next week will be affected by today’s education?” Use the results to formulate an overall “patient impact indicator” score you can share with fellow participants, as well as with internal and external audiences.

Develop and test educational hypotheses and measure changes in competency, practice, and performance by comparing audience answers to questions prior to and following the educational interventions.

2. Build internal bridges. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a pharmaceutical company or some type of CME organization; if your organization doesn’t understand the importance of CME, your future is in danger.

Conduct an informal survey of your internal colleagues and key stakeholders. Find out what they know about CME. Ask them what healthcare-improvement data points would be valuable to them. Wherever you can match up the goals of CME to other internal goals, you have identified an opportunity to connect and communicate.

Nearly a third of industry CME leaders surveyed said they still needed to explain the definition or scope of CME to internal audiences. And only half had regularly scheduled meetings with management to translate CME value up the chain. Don’t just do your job. Convince your colleagues that what you do is indispensable.

3. Communicate externally. If you have measured well and built strong internal bridges, you need to begin to promote outside your office walls. Submit a speaking abstract for a CME conference. Publish your results in a newsletter. Put a press release on your organization’s Web site. Get in touch with this magazine’s editor.

Our future hinges on CME value. But value is worthless without a voice. Let’s spread the word. n

Stephen M. Lewis, MA, CCMEP, is president of Colorado-based Global Education Group. Reach him at slewis@globaleducationgroup.com.

More of Stephen's Columns:
AMA Logic Harms Medicine

As Goes Healthcare, So Goes CME

Welcome to the CME Business

Ringing In a New Era for CME

REMS: A New Trajectory for CME?