I really dislike opening up The Wall Street Journal and reading, once again, that the only physician behavior change that results from CME is more prescriptions for the commercial supporter's products. But that's what happened on April 19, when the WSJ ran an article entitled, “Doctors' Continuing Education Needs Prescription for Change,” about a recent study by Duke University Medical Center researchers that compared the cardiac care provided by physicians who underwent state-mandated CME versus those who didn't. Those who had the CME didn't behave differently from those who hadn't when it came to aspirin or beta blockers, but they were 4 percent more likely to prescribe branded blood-clot-dissolving drugs.

We've talked enough in this issue about how the new draft Standards for Commercial Support could affect the pharma influence problem, so I won't go there. Where I will go: It really ticks me off that we have yet another example people can point to of CME not working. While I was unable to contact the researchers by press time to find out for sure, my guess is that the lack of behavior change may have something to do with the usual talking-head lectures we all know don't result in behavior change. If you want participants to change, you have to change, too.

I know, I know, docs love lectures. If you offer something else, they may not come, and no one wants that. But there's another way to skin that cat. Now that there is a big push for providers to repackage live activities on the Web, you have the perfect opportunity to slip in some of the interactive activities that do result in behavior change. After all, physicians in the study of online CME, cited on page 13, said that online interactivity is welcomed by participants with open minds instead of pushed away with cold, sweaty hands, as is all too often the case when live meetings try to get interactive.

Sure, it can take a little more time and money to create an interactive online activity, rather than just slapping a PowerPoint presentation up on your Web site. But, as Linda Casebeer, PhD, principal investigator of the online CME study, says, “You may multipurpose, but it doesn't serve any purpose if you're just changing the media, not the way the message is presented.”

Give it a try, just once. Then measure the results. I think you might be pleased to see how effective a little online interactivity can be in changing physician behavior — and I think we'd all rather read about that than more stories about how CME doesn't work.

Sue Pelletier, (978) 448-0377, spelletier@primediabusiness.com