Katrina Aftermath

Dear Editor: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina ripping through the gulf states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama it is fitting to pause in discussion and debate about CME policy and procedures — for those issues are truly secondary by comparison to the unfathomable destruction, disruption, and displacement caused by the storm. Instead, let's give some thought to those of our CME colleagues and others in the ravaged regions who have suffered immeasurably. Let's hope that CME professionals nationwide will find ways to bring comfort and aid to those in need, be it through a prayer, a conversation, or direct assistance.
Robert E. Orsetti
Assistant Vice President,
Continuing Education
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Editors' note: We couldn't agree more. Medical Meetings' December cover story will focus on the effect of hurricane Katrina on the CME and healthcare meeting community. To contribute your ideas and experiences, please contact Executive Editor Sue Pelletier at (978) 448-0377; or send e-mail to spelletier@primediabusiness.com.

True Lies

Dear Editor: Fine piece of analysis and synthesis [“True Lies,” by Sue Pelletier, July/August 2005]. Keep up the good work, and win another award! And thanks for recalling my multisource funding proposal in your editorial [“Choose Change,” by Tamar Hosansky]. Maybe we should revive it in some way. Remember, it was not for all CME — only for needed CME topics that didn't fit with major products.
Lewis A. Miller
WentzMiller & Associates LLC
Darien, Conn.

Editors' note: If you are interested in discussing Miller's funding proposal or other ideas for alternative commercial support systems, please contact Editor Tamar Hosansky at (978) 466-6358; or send e-mail to thosansky@primediabusiness.com.

Dear Editor: Just wanted to compliment you on the last issue's “True Lies” piece [by Sue Pelletier]. It was beautifully written, balanced, and an excellent review of the continual state of evolution facing CME. Do let me know if you are ever going to do a piece on clinical guidelines, as I feel that is the next major issue facing the evolution of medicine and CME. Well done!
Neil H. Gray
Managing Partner
Healthcare Trends & Strategies, LLC
Bridgewater, N.J.

Editors' note: Great idea! To participate in an article on guidelines and CME, please contact Executive Editor Sue Pelletier at (978) 448-0377; or send e-mail to spelletier@primediabusiness.com.

Bias-Free CME

Dear Editor: The editorial “Is It Possible to Take the Bias Out of Physician Education?” [by Sue Pelletier, posted on Capsules, the Medical Meetings blog, on April 19, 2005, available at mm.meetingsnet.com] mistakenly assumes bias is inherent in continuing medical education programs and downplays the substantial efforts of Accreditation Council for CME-accredited providers to ensure their programs are fully compliant and free of bias.

Although not the only controls, there are three primary bias safeguards used by accredited providers. First, accredited providers use formal internal processes to identify and address conflict of interest during early phases of the development process. Faculty disclosures are mandatory, and when a conflict is identified, new, more suitable faculty members are used. Secondly, each program is subject to peer review and scrutinized for bias and other pitfalls prior to delivery. Finally, every accrediting body must conduct post-education attendee evaluations to uncover any perceived bias in the delivery of the educational activity.

The article also states that “if the topic isn't their product category, they [the drug companies] won't provide the unconditional educational grant.” Commercial supporters have a limited supply of funding and naturally choose to support education that has an impact on their product categories, but that doesn't mean that important education on “soft topics” isn't getting into the hands of the doctors. There are numerous noncommercially supported programs that provide valuable education in many areas where a void exists.

Readers should also consider two other perspectives: the clinician's and the patient's. From a clinician's standpoint, time is a luxury. They cannot comb through every Journal of the American Medical Association study or page after page of clinical trial data. They rely on accredited CME opportunities to stay updated on the latest breakthroughs and give their patients the best care possible. Doctors know the difference between commercial and legitimate education, and past actions show they won't spend their rare free time in educational activities without recognizing a clear benefit. Similarly, patients want their physicians to be up-to-date with medical advances regardless of who foots the bill.

Ultimately, accreditation exists to ensure that quality controls are in place. It's not accurate to make the assumption that all programs are inherently biased.
Marsha Meyer, RPh
Senior Vice President,
Clinical Information
Irvine, Calif.