Life Science Compliance Update

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April 14, 2016

NEJM: What Do I Need to Learn Today – The Evolution of CME

Graham McMahon, MD, MMSc, the President and CEO of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, has written an article for the New England Journal of Medicine about the evolution of continuing medical education (CME). The article, "What Do I Need to Learn Today? – The Evolution of CME," asks for clinicians, educators, healthcare institutions, and regulators to contribute to the continuing transformation of CME.  He also suggests that CME be included as a significant asset for regulatory efforts such as MOC and the Merit-Based Incentive Payments System.

Dr. McMahon stated that such a continued transformation will serve to "expand the opportunities for educational innovation that improves physician practice and ultimately benefits patient care and the health of our country." To help the transformation, Dr. McMahon recommends that clinicians become more aware of their individual strengths and weaknesses and choose CME activities that can help them grow and become better clinicians.

In order to meet the learning needs of clinicians in today's healthcare environment, it is imperative for educators to design CME activities that focus on the learners, rather than the teachers, and incorporate opportunities for interaction and reflection. Interprofessional continuing education (IPCE) gives physicians the opportunity to build the competencies needed for team-based practice. Patients should be active in their care and should be viewed as part of the healthcare team; including patients as CME speakers can work to engage physicians' hearts as well as their minds.

Part of the problem today, as outlined in the article by Dr. McMahon, is that information is "ubiquitous," meaning that the simple exchange of information has little value, and that in order to truly learn and understand something, shared wisdom and the opportunity to engage in practice-relevant problem solving is crucial. Dr. McMahon realizes that once physicians see and understand that they are actively (and actually!) learning, they embrace future activities that allow them that same learning opportunity.

As stated by Dr. McMahon,

Education that's inadequate, inefficient, or ineffective, particularly when participation is driven by mandates, irritates physicians who are forced to revert to "box-checking" behavior that's antithetical to durable, useful learning.

It is important that going forward, regulators begin to focus on educational outcomes, not the process, and work to create other conditions that maximize flexibility and innovation in CME. The ACCME's collaboration with the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) to simplify the integration of Maintenance of Certification (MOC) and CME, is an example of regulatory authorities working together to reduce the burden placed on physicians, helping to promote lifelong learning.

Dr. McMahon also points out that "If more regulatory authorities recognize the value of education in driving clinical practice and quality improvement and allow educational activities to count for multiple requirements, they can reduce the burden on physicians and promote lifelong learning. For example, participation in CME could be designated as a method for meeting the clinical practice improvement expectations of Medicare’s new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System."

Each year, the accredited CME community collectively provides nearly 150,000 activities. Accredited CME activities are required to be evidence-based and free of any commercial bias or influence. The more involved healthcare leaders, educators, and learners, become in the process, the more CME can do to promote performance, quality improvement, collegiality, and public health.

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