Continuing Medical Education:
A Vital Component of America’s Health Care System
Continuing Medical Education, or CME, plays a vital role in the delivery of innovative health care to American patients. The rapid pace of scientific discovery and innovation increases the need for CME as a means of communicating advances to medical practitioners and patients. Today, much of this education is underwritten by life sciences companies that recognize the value in broadening awareness of disease states, standards of care and new therapies. Despite the existence of rigorous standards that ensure that all certified CME curricula be evidence-based and free of bias, there still remains a misinformed perception that CME can be tainted by industry support.
CME facilitates innovation and improves patient outcomes
For a typical physician who will practice medicine for 30 to 40 years over the course of his or her career, assessments, treatments and procedures learned in medical school and residency quickly become outdated with advances in medicine and technology. To facilitate the continued integration of new advances into patient care, the medical community follows a system of continuing medical education. CME is recognized as an essential part of continued professional development for physicians and a key resource in ensuring both the quality and effectiveness of health care delivery. CME is so important for health care quality and patient access that many states mandate CME as part of physician licensing requirements.
Enforceable standards exist to guarantee the scientific integrity of CME
Certified CME is defined as education that is planned, implemented, and evaluated in accordance with nationally mandated accreditation policies for all accredited CME providers. CME takes many forms, including live and Internet-based course instruction, lecture series and publications. Hundreds of organizations participate in providing CME opportunities, and several hundred thousand physician and non-physician participants engage in multiple accredited CME activities each year. Accredited CME providers are committed to the integrity of information that is provided to physicians as part of certified CME activities and have taken critical steps over the past several years to increase transparency, strengthen accreditation guidelines, and monitor and enforce policies.
Industry support for CME is vital and should be encouraged
Advancements in medical science during the past 20 years have rapidly outpaced the ability of academic centers, hospitals, societies, journals, and medical education companies to fully educate physicians and other healthcare professionals. The gap between clinical research and practice continues to widen. To motivate practitioners to change practice and improve medical care for patients, an expansion of the numbers and types of educational offerings will be required. Despite the pressing need, public funding for certified CME has remained flat during the past two decades; private sources of support increased until 2008, but have continued to decline despite the growing healthcare need. CME providers support transparency regarding all sources of their funding, but curtailing commercial support for CME through unnecessary restrictions, burdensome reporting requirements or outright bans would dramatically diminish access to education, and negatively impact patient care.