Not learning much from CME? It’s not your fault

By Knowledge to Practice  |  September 26, 2020  |  Methods of Learning

Doctors Talking

If you feel like you learn more by having conversations in the hallway with your peers than you do from CME, you’re probably right. Our current system is more about checking a box than providing meaningful learning experiences.

The ordeal I went through with my daughter showed me firsthand the failure of our post-graduate medical education system. I was at one of the best hospitals in Boston, and I could see the team’s passion and their desire to do what was best for my daughter—but they didn’t have access to the tools they needed.

As a result, I’ve spent my career trying to understand how we can better serve doctors like you, who absolutely want to provide the best care possible, but need to keep up to date on a constantly growing body of knowledge and have very little time. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

CME needs to teach the art of medicine—not just the science

Practicing good medicine requires making thousands of decisions, some of which may be based on cases you’ve seen or been taught before, but many of which require you to make an educated guess. Those educated guesses are the art of medicine, and that is a hard thing to communicate.

The academicians tasked with creating learning materials are incredibly brilliant subject matter experts, but they’ve never been taught how to teach. So, they’re disseminating what they know how to disseminate: the facts. But facts don’t give you enough tools to connect the dots and make difficult choices at the bedside.

Completion shouldn’t be the primary measure of success

Most CME measures success based on completion or self-reported assessments of change, which is really not that surprising. It’s extremely difficult to measure the impact of CME because it’s almost impossible to isolate what behaviors resulted from CME, and what resulted from everything else a physician does every day to remain professionally strong.

ACCME’s most recent report found that 97% of activities provided by accredited CME providers were designed to change competence, which the ACCME defines as strategies to put knowledge into action. However, only 31% were designed to change patient outcomes. Most CME providers use primarily self-reported data on whether or not the physician thinks he or she learned something that will change their practice. What they really should measure is whether participants are practicing medicine differently as a result.

Technology alone isn’t the answer

I’ve seen a lot of people try to improve CME by creating cool technology, but technology doesn’t automatically solve the problem. You can take cool technology and jam a 60-minute digitized lecture into it that wasn’t well designed in the first place. That’s not online learning. Technology can be a valuable tool, especially for making CME more easily accessible, but only if it’s used thoughtfully. We need to design content specifically for an online experience instead of simply taking live sessions and putting them online.

In spite of all of these problems, there is a glimmer of hope. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a report calling for a radical overhaul of the continuing education industry, and some providers are starting to sit up and take notice.

That’s why I founded Knowledge to Practice. With so much else on your plate, our job is to make CME a valuable use of your time that directly benefits your practice. As an industry, we have a long way to go, but at least the conversation is happening, and we’re proud to be part of it.

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