The future of continuing medical education (CME)?


Phil Lucas | MPH
10 minute read

In today’s knowledge-based society, health care professionals (HCPs) have a responsibility to continuously develop and refine their skills after medical school through lifelong learning. Academic institutes can foster such learning through programmes of continuing medical education (CME). But what is CME and why is it needed, and how can we best make provisions for the highest quality and most relevant CME programmes?

What is CME and why is it needed?

CME and continuing professional development (CPD) are often used interchangeably, however, CME is mostly recognised as an ingredient of CPD. It makes sense - all the skills required to practice high-quality medicine are not only knowledge and skills-based. There is a need to ensure varied and wide-ranging relevant competencies get the recognition that they deserve in CPD.

With that being said, CME is still a major element of CPD. It plays a vital role in enabling HCPs to continually improve their knowledge and skills and convert educational research and academic innovations into clinical practice. Most importantly, CME improves the quality of care patients receive.

CME is a high priority for HCPs as relevant professional bodies (e.g., Royal College of Physicians) require CPD as part of their membership policies. CME is also used to support HCPs revalidation - the process through which a doctor proves they are fit to practise and up-to-date.

In Europe, the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (EACCME®) was set up in October 1999 due to the shift to mandatory CME/CPD in Europe. Ten years later by 2009, the EACCME® recognised the need for change and accredited e-learning materials - taking continuing medical education online and the beginning of CME as we now know it.

Evolving CME programmes

The current CME landscape is being transformed. HCPs have ever-changing educational requirements in response to their evolving information-seeking behaviours, patients’ needs, and global healthcare challenges.

Strategic design

To be effective, continuing education activities should be designed strategically, for example:

  • Learning needs should be identified
  • Detailed learning objectives should be formed
  • Preferred learning environments need to be recognised

Knowledge and experience

Additionally, content curators are increasingly using the knowledge and experience of HCPs and patients to improve the accuracy and relevance of the medical content.

HCPs - Panels of HCPs are increasingly being employed as expert peer reviewers to assess the accuracy and relevance of content to practising medical professionals.

Patients - the unique insights of those receiving treatment is also being included to enrich and enhance the relevance of content. A case study can really boost understanding, whereas a patient story - putting a face to the disease - can all boost retention and understanding of the complexities of a particular disease or treatment.

In summary

Effective CME programmes should consider the following:

  • The content should be designed for medical professionals, by medical professionals and other stakeholders in healthcare research and practice
  • Content should come from peer-reviewed resources
  • It is important to be unbiased and deliver content based on the latest evidence-based information
  • Content should be adapted to societal expectations
  • Clear take-away points should be included that can be translated into clinical practice
  • Translate content into different languages.

Adoption of technology

As the medical field undergoes a ‘digital transformation’, the focus is now on delivering cost-effective and engaging digital-based education and training.

With a significant proportion of HCPs seeking the latest disease-specific information online, CME should respond to such trends and provide digital solutions such as virtual classrooms and online course modules to address such information-seeking behaviour.

The advantages of using digital platforms are that it enables continuous knowledge acquisition and provides an accessible learning environment that keeps the learner engaged. Online CME thus fosters a culture of life-long learning and CPD.

With this said, technology should be used to support learning and not to replace traditional face-to-face learning. CME should include blended learning where more than one platform or technique is used to deliver CME. Medical educators should not focus on a specific technology but understand that such technologies should be used to provide engaging, personalised and empowering learning experiences.

Read more on our e-learning for health page.

The future

With CME (as part of CPD) becoming mandatory in more and more countries across the globe it is easy to see the draw of accredited e-learning and online CME activities.

CME has the ability to raise standards in all countries and allow for important information sharing. For example, doctors in India or Spain could take a CME course which was developed with input by a team from a prestigious American medical research institution in collaboration with the patients they treated. This creates highly relevant CME while simultaneously strengthening the connection between research and clinical practice.

New digital technology provides ample opportunity for health professionals to access and engage with relevant CME based on their knowledge gaps and preferences. It shows a promising step towards establishing a well-connected community of content curators, healthcare educators, HCPs and patients that work together to meet a common goal of addressing critical healthcare challenges.

How can Inklab help?

Creating content for CME courses is one of our core strengths. It allows us to combine our scientific and medical expertise.

More about InkLab Medical Communications

Our mission is to inspire behavioural change and transform health-related outcomes through client collaboration with our four centres of excellence - scientific experts, learning experience designers, digital designers, and marketing specialists.

Providing content for CME Programmes, bespoke e-learning and medical educational videos, disease area/product-specific training, content creation for client platforms, and the creation of training toolkits and visual aids are just some of the services we offer under the medical education banner. See our tips for creating scientific posters here.

Here at InkLab we also recognise the importance and requirement for high-quality medical translations which require careful handling - if you get it wrong the consequences can be very serious.

Furthermore, we have a range of assets and services we can provide due to our extremely talented digital design team. We create bespoke animations and videos, exploratory interactions such as interactive PDFs/infographics, as well as digital advertising and analytics.

Our whole team have the training and background to translate the complexities of science to professional and lay audiences. Furthermore, our experienced co-founders and directors provide trusted counsel and strategic insight into all projects, from concept to completion.

Read more about 'what is medical communications?'

What's in the name?

‘Ink’ represents our creative digital design gurus, who work closely with our prize-winning medical and instructional designers to translate statistics and words into compelling messages. The ‘Lab’ houses our highly qualified scientists and medical writers, with experience from lab research to brand promotion and every step in between. Together, InkLab provides you with solutions and service levels that deliver beyond expectation.

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