Monday, October 08, 2007

In defense of traditional lecture based CME

Right now I’m feeling a little morose as Bob Wachter over at Wachter’s World posts bittersweet reminders of the fact that I missed this year’s just completed UCSF Hospital Medicine Conference in San Francisco. It’s one of several high quality CME courses I repeat on a rotating basis, chock-full of updates and thoughtful presentations on this ever more complex field.

As I console myself thinking “maybe next year” I‘m a little concerned about an emerging threat to the existence of this type of meeting. There are people out there, people in high places, who would like nothing more than the end of traditional didactic CME conferences as we now know them. A rising chorus of voices calls for the end of pharmaceutical company support for CME activities, without which many conferences of the high caliber exemplified by the UCSF meeting would simply cease to exist. Others call for a virtual end of all traditional didactic CME, including Dr. Jordan Cohen, former president of the AAMC.

Wachter addresses these criticisms in the concluding paragraph of his post:

People wonder about whether CME does any good, either because content taught in big lectures tends not to stick or because many CME courses are golf-laden boondoggles. It is now Saturday morning, and 90% of our registrants are still here (and they’ve already received their CME certificates and it is gorgeous day in San Francisco – lots of excuses to play hookie). I admire their commitment, and, though I can’t prove it, I think we’re saving a few lives here in the Fairmont Hotel.
No, he can’t prove it, but having attended a couple of Bob’s past conferences I suspect he’s right. I come home from courses like this, read and re-read the syllabus, look up related material and primary sources on the Internet, then return to work with batteries charged, newly inspired to try and make a difference.

As far as "proof" of efficacy of CME goes, some critics of traditional programs insist that accreditation somehow be based on verification that each content element be correlated directly with a change in physician “behavior”. For a more lengthy rant of mine on what’s wrong with that thinking click here.

1 comment:

Ambulance Driver said...

He neglects to consider the one factor that always makes lecture-based CME very effective: motivated listeners.

If you spend your money to travel to a conference, swear off the golf outings or fight through the effects of the previous night's cocktail hour, and still show up to hear the lecture - and a great many do - it's a good bet that the participants are not your typical bored student listening passively to a lecture. They have something invested in the lesson.

Apples and oranges, really.