Linking CME to Performance Improvement

The Doctor's Office , October 22, 2009

Although the CME standards the ACCME put in place in 2006 (facilities have until 2012 to fully comply) aren’t asking CME providers to track exactly what physicians learn, they require CME to be:

  • Focused on practice-based learning
  • Derived from the physicians’ professional practice gaps
  • Designed to change physician strategies, performance, or patient outcomes
  • Evaluated for its effectiveness in changing strategies, performance, or patient outcomes

"CME is becoming more aligned with performance improvement. Basically, what the ACCME is saying is that CME doesn’t make sense unless it addresses a bona fide need and leads to some real change," says Charles Huntington, PA, MPH, associate dean of continuing and community education at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington.

Although meeting these requirements sounds daunting, small changes can make a big difference. For example, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine is pushing its various departments to revise their educational interventions to solicit audience participation. "Although there may be a component that is didactic, they really need to allow time for audience discussion," says Huntington.

One department is doing a particularly good job of engaging participants, he says. Each CME topic is covered during the course of two or three sessions, and at the end of the first session, the presenters ask the audience members what they want to learn more about. Presenters then use this information to develop the next two sessions.

The university is also focusing on CME that engages physicians in performance improvement projects within their areas of practice. Practitioners who engage in this type of CME must define an area they want to improve, measure their current performance, plan and implement a process change, and measure the effectiveness of the change.

"This is a real culture change. We are asking our providers to think about CME in a very different way," Huntington says.

This article was adapted from one that originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of The Doctor’s Office, a HealthLeaders Media publication.

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