Mayo Clinic conference on continuing medical education for physicians

October 07, 2008

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- As medicine undergoes rapid transformation, North American leaders in continuing medical education (CME) have joined together to transform CME itself. Their goal is to see that physicians have the best professional development resources available throughout their careers to translate new research into better patient care.

The Mayo Clinic Consensus Conference on Continuing Medical Education (CME) held on Sept. 24-26 brought together more than 50 continuing medical education leaders from the United States and Canada. They began the first task of CME transformation, which is to establish a blueprint for change designed to make CME a reliable link to cost-effective, excellent health care, and to ensure that CME serves as a lifelong centerpiece of physicians' professional development. The three conference co-hosts were Mayo Clinic, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, and the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education.

The New CME Enterprise

The new CME will be a cohesive educational enterprise that links together the many disparate providers who now offer CME courses. As a distinct, unified educational movement, the new CME enterprise will be built on an infrastructure of sound educational and learning theories to organize course offerings and delivery methods. Leaders say CME is currently too often an episodic, peripheral educational activity.

The conference was convened in response to a 2007 government report that concluded CME must become more rigorously scientific; more evidence-based and theory-driven; and more accountable to the public who entrust their health to physicians. Notes Terrence Cascino, M.D., executive dean, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, "Our goal is to make CME focused and responsive to what is best for the patient."

Strategic Imperatives

Over the next three years, conferees will collaborate to change CME using the following strategic imperatives to guide them. CME and its providers must: Mayo School of Continuing Medical Education Dean, Richard Berger, M.D., Ph.D., believes the conference is important because the problem is urgent. "Doctors today must keep up with mountains of rapidly changing medical information needed to maintain a safe and up-to-date practice. Our task is to propose solutions based on sound learning theory, evidence and outcomes so we can integrate professional development through CME into physicians' life-long learning activities. With this conference the transformation of CME is underway."

Lifelong Learning, Lifelong Value

Continuing medical educational leaders agreed to frame the CME improvement initiative as a "value proposition" that can motivate all stakeholders to seek it out and support it, from CME faculty members, to physician-students, to third-party payers, to hospital administrators, to members of the government. The continuing medical educational leaders agreed that when CME is regarded as the first-line tool for improving health care and controlling medical costs through reduction of error and inefficiencies, everybody wins. Said Melinda Steele, president of the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education (SACME), "The 'Science of CME' in the United States is relatively young compared to other medical sciences, and SACME is an organization that is well positioned to help further the growth and positive impact of this new science. By helping to establish a national research agenda for the field of CME, our belief is that patient care is likely to be improved."

Added Murray Kopelow, M.D., chief executive officer, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), "We need CME that matters to patients and makes a direct, positive impact on patients by functioning as a reliable bridge to quality health care. We need this to be true everywhere CME is offered. And we need physicians to internalize lifelong learning as part of their professional identities. When this happens, patients can all be confident that his or her physician has the resources needed to keep up with evolving medical knowledge."
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