Over the past decade, continuing medical education (CME*) has undergone transformations driven by the evolving needs of healthcare providers. In 2012, Dr. Curtis Olson, as the editor in chief of JCEHP, outlined a collection of evolving themes and areas of focus that he saw on the horizon for the CME landscape.1 These “20 predictions” forecasted directionality and the context for several emerging transformations within CME. Subsequently, at the 2018 Alliance Industry Summit there was a focal point of the rising call to action to improve standardization of outcomes data within CME. From this meeting, several efforts to standardize outcomes metrics and terminology — including the Outcomes Standardization Project (Outcomes In CE – The Standardization Project) and Alliance Taxonomy Taskforce — further took hold as areas of focus and change within the CME and, particularly, the Alliance community emerged. These efforts made significant strides at establishing common language and meaning relative to educational design and outcomes measurement. Both educational design and outcomes assessment have been impacted by these seminal events. In a series of five articles to be published over the next few months, we will delve into the changes that have unfolded over the past decade while setting the stage for future CME advancements.
The continuous evolution of CME can be overwhelming and devoid of context without a look at how we got here. Several influential and forward thinkers laid out predictions for CME in the past decade, notably Dr. Olson. His work has been cited across the CME and healthcare education literature, as a foundation for dialogue on the future of CME amid the changes in healthcare practice and continuing professional development, more broadly.2-3 Careful reflection on the trajectory of CME over the last decade can allow for targeted efforts in cultivating the future of CME, which includes outlining our individual and collective efforts to purposefully shape the science and practice of CME moving forward.
Evolutions within CME over the last decade includes:
- Updates to accreditation policies and the shifts seen in purposeful planning of interprofessional education.
- The increasing range of tools and methods for incorporating technology into education. This has broadened the design options for CME as well as spawned questions on the form and function of accreditation and taxonomy as we seek to measure learning experiences.
- The expansion of newly evolving learning mechanisms, such as short-form learning and the use of social media to provide healthcare professionals with access to evidence.
These evolutions, among others, are continuing to push our CME community to expand our understanding of and practices related to design, measurement, evaluation, and research. This is an exciting era for CME despite the dizzying pace of change.
The 2018 call to action for standardization of outcomes easily dovetails into changes across the CME landscape over the past decade. There has been significantly more attention to outcomes data associated with CME activities, which are now valued as essential components for evaluating the impact of educational interventions. Throughout this period, there has been a notable shift in the evaluation of CME programs, moving away from metrics like satisfaction and self-reported knowledge gains toward more meaningful and measurable outcomes that demonstrate the value and impact of these programs on clinical practice and patient care.
While outcomes measurement has now become an integral part of the majority of CME initiatives, the approach to outcomes assessment and reporting varies among educational providers. This has resulted in a wide variation in the types and formats of outcomes data generated within CME. Consequently, there are now vast amounts of outcomes data with little standardization to enable aggregation and/or comparison, allowing for the ability to assess changes over time.
To understand the current landscape of CME and perspectives of CME stakeholders, we gathered insights from a survey conducted among members of the CME community during April–May 2023. The survey sought to explore perspectives of CME stakeholders in two key areas: 1) the evolution of educational design and focus and insights on future themes that will be important over the coming decade and 2) the current state of outcomes reporting, including perceived improvements in outcomes standardization and continued gaps in outcomes reporting. A total of 70 responses were collected, representing a diverse range of CME stakeholders. Among them, 32 respondents were individuals from pharmaceutical companies supporting independent medical education grants, while the remaining 38 responses were from professionals associated with educational providers, professional societies or associations, academic medicine or medical schools and those providing CME-related consulting or services.
Initial data gathered from this survey was used as the basis of the 2023 AIS sessions “How Far Have We Come? Five Years After a Call-to-Action for Outcomes” and “What's next? Revisiting '20 Predictions for the Future of CPD’: Looking back to inform the future”. Since the presentation, additional responses were gathered, and the data will be highlighted in this Almanac series over the coming months.
*CME is used within this article to refer to accredited education for healthcare professionals, including CME and CE.
- Olson C. Twenty predictions for the future of CPD: implications of the shift from the update model to improving clinical practice. J Contin Educ Health Prof 2012;32(3):151-152.
- Cullen, Michael W., et al. Reinvigorating continuing medical education: meeting the challenges of the digital age. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2019;94(12):2501-2509.
- Kitto, Simon, et al. Examining the intersections between continuing education, interprofessional education and workplace learning. Journal of interprofessional care 2014;28(3):183-185.
Check out more from this series: Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
Sarah A. Nisly, PharmD, MEd, BCPS, FCCP, is the vice president, outcomes and clinical impact, for Clinical Education Alliance.
Caroline O. Pardo, PhD, CHCP, FACEHP, is the president, CPD, for Clinical Education Alliance.
Wendy Cerenzia, MS is affiliated with CE Outcomes, LLC.
Emily Belcher is affiliated with CE Outcomes, LLC.