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Informed Patients and Patient-Centered CME

Now that patients are tapping into the Internet to get smarter about what ails them, should they have more of a role in the continuing medical education that their docs must undertake to maintain their licensure and certification? There are, as Lawrence Sherman points out, many benefits in including patients in the full continuum of post-graduate healthcare provider education. CME providers can tap into a Facebook page or Twitter hashtag for patients who have a specific disease and find out where they consider the gaps in their care to be and tailor the education to close those gaps. You can put a human face on a dry scientific session by having a patient tell his story in person or hers via video. You can include patients in the post-CME-activity evaluation to get feedback on whether the education actually did improve the care they receive from their HCP.

It all sounds great, except for one thing. As Anne Finger says, “We’re all aware of clinicians who can barely hide their exasperation when a patient offers Web-accrued knowledge to assist in the differential diagnosis. Some doctors feel that their high-level scientific meetings are not the place for reports from patients.”

In other words, patients may have more access to information, but that doesn’t mean the relationship between docs and patients has necessarily changed, at least, not universally. While some docs may now be willing to concede that Google-educated patients have a place on the dais at their medical society’s annual conference, many either aren’t willing to switch teacher/learner chairs with their patients, or have run into too many self-educated, woefully misinformed patients not to discount the worth of what any of them have to say.

While docs may not want to hear a patient’s take on the latest scientific findings at a CME activity, patients have an important story to tell—their own. I believe one of the roles a CME provider can have is to help docs learn how to become better practitioners by listening to those stories. The scientists can teach them the science that will make them effective clinicians, but patients can teach them the art of being a good doctor.

P.S. Writing this reminded me of a story I wrote a while back about a meeting that brought together people with Prader-Willi Syndrome and those who treat them. It includes what I think is a good list of tips at the end for how to incorporate patients into the programming as participants. Our latest Ethical Hypothetical also discusses some precautions you might want to take when including patients on the faculty side of CME.

P.P.S. I asked my favorite CME LinkedIn group for thoughts on including informed patients in CME, and learned some interesting things. For example, did you know that in the U.K. patient feedback is an integral piece of physicians' and other healthcare professionals' annual appraisals? I wonder how many U.S. healthcare organizations include include patient feedback in their HCP evaluations? Now that so many of us check out our docs on Angie's List or some other social site to see what patients say about the care they provide, it'd be almost bizarre if the organizations that employ them don't consider that criteria as well.

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