Putting together the puzzle of how CME has to shift to accommodate healthcare Thinkstock by Getty Images

Putting together the puzzle of how CME has to shift to accommodate healthcare change

6 Ways Continuing Medical Education Must Change

What if your jobs as medical meeting providers depended on the performance outcomes from your education, just as Medicaid reimbursement depends on outcomes beyond the patient’s hospital stay?


The traditional academic, research-driven, information-sharing model of CME is not enough to address the realities of medicine in 2015 and beyond. The healthcare profession is changing rapidly, but continuing education for healthcare professionals is all too often stuck in the past. Today’s HCPs can’t just receive information about the latest research—they have to learn how to adapt it to their practice needs and patient base, work with the full range of other HCPs on their patient teams to implement it, and be able to show improvements in both their patients’ health and their practices.

In part one of a three-part series based on a recent MeetingsNet webinar, Velvet Chainsaw’s Executive Vice President of Education and Engagement Jeff Hurt outlines six trends that are driving change in healthcare today. In this article, he explains how continuing healthcare professional development must shift as well to meet the needs of today’s HCPs. Part three provides some techniques you can use to align your educational activities with the needs of your HCP learners. Also, check out the Learner’s Bill of Rights Hurt and the audience developed during the webinar.

6 Ways CME Must Change

1. Rein in the research—take a performance-outcome approach.

Much of CPD is still based on disseminating the latest research, not on helping HCPs learn how to better communicate with their patients and teach patients how—and why—to follow their treatment plans, Hurt said.

He asked the audience what role research plays in their education. They responded overwhelmingly that research is vital to what they do, from using it to identify practice gaps and determine best practices, to keeping physicians up to date. “It’s important because it’s used to shape physician behavior, diagnosis, and patient care,” said one person. Several said that the majority of what is presented at their meetings is research. But, added one person, “doctors need to know how to apply these advances to their practice,” not just learn the data.

Hurt agreed, saying, “We have to build a bridge between academic research and practitioner inquiry.” While the data can advance a field, data alone may not be enough to improve an HCP’s practice. “How can HCPs apply the research? What does it mean to their practices, their patients?” Because research often is conducted by academics, not practicing clinicians, it may look at just the broader impact on patients as a whole, not the local patient base of a particular HCP’s practice. “Too much of what happens in medical meetings is a research-based, linear process focused on control and prediction. We need to shift to a cyclical process that is focused on providing practitioner insight into how they can improve.”

2. Go on a session diet.

“It’s no longer about the volume of information you present, it’s about the value” to HCPs and their patients, said Hurt. “The majority of your meetings need to go on a session diet. You need to target your sessions more closely to your HCPs’ needs,” which may have more to do with teaching HCPs how to reach, and teach, their than just sharing the academic research with them.

3. Focus on outcomes, not satisfaction with the meeting.

Healthcare education also has to take more of an outcomes approach, which means your evaluations also will have to change to reflect HCP performance improvement in their practices, not just their satisfaction immediately post-activity, said Hurt. You now need to measure the extent to which HCPs can—and do—demonstrate what they’ve learned back in their practices.

“What if your jobs as medical meeting providers depended on the performance outcomes from your education, just as Medicaid reimbursement depends on outcomes beyond the patient’s hospital stay? Just as ACOs are moving care beyond the hospital setting, we must move our focus beyond the conference session to performance in practice,” Hurt said.

4. Provide a better experience, because a better experience encourages better outcomes.

Most organizations still use learning methods that aren’t effective in helping HCPs—and, ultimately, their patients—learn. “If you asked most HCPs, they would say their best learning experiences come from interactions with colleagues, residency, fellowships, and on-the-job training, not in meetings, said Hurt.

Think about how you could change just 10 percent of your educational offerings to be more focused on outcomes and providing real-world learning examples, Hurt challenged the audience. “It’s time for medical meetings to live and breathe evidence-based education.”

5. Engage the audience in their own learning. Because the word gets thrown around a lot, he asked the audience what “engagement” means to them. Among their responses were: active listening, real-time interaction, participatory activities that get learners’ full attention, getting learners involved in designing the education, having learners draw their own conclusions rather than be asked to parrot back a solution that is handed to them—in short, having an involved audience that is thinking about and interacting with the content.

“We used to think that if you had an audience facing forward with their eyes on the stage and not on their phones, they were actively engaged,” said Hurt. “Wrong. We have no idea if those people are engaged. We’ve become very good at ‘camouflaged listening’—looking forward, putting a smile on our faces, while we’re actually counting ceiling tiles and thinking about lunch or incoming e-mail. Engagement in learning means the speaker needs to shut up every now and then and let people think, and then discuss what they learned.” Also, ask yourself if you are helping learners understand why the information presented is important—“sometimes you need to spoonfeed them the connection,” he said.

6. Incorporate peer-to-peer interaction and group learning. Hurt said that the “working out loud” movement that’s sweeping the education community calls for people to process information together in groups, connecting with past experiences, and predicting how each individual plans to use what they learn. This helps them transfer the new knowledge to their jobs, Hurt said. It’s also vital to provide followup activities, support, and possibly the tools they will need to apply what they learn to their practices.

How do you know if attendees have learned something? “When they can put it in their own words and teach it to someone else,” Hurt said. “We are really bad judges of knowing when we learn something. If all we do is mimic the presenter, we may be misleading ourselves into thinking we learned it.”

What changes do you think are essential to meet the educational needs of today's HCPs?

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