Listen on the Almanac or Anchor, and find us and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.
Voiceover: Welcome back to the Alliance Podcast. Are you still reflecting on all the amazing learnings and takeaways you brought back from the Alliance 2023 Annual Conference? Keep the conversation going with this episode, recorded live from National Harbor, Maryland, and featuring Alliance Executive Director Kathleen Weis and conference presenters Rebecca Kolb, Magna Patel and Tina Miller. Take it away, Kathleen.
Host, Kathleen Weis: Hello, and welcome back to the Alliance Podcast: Continuing Conversations. I'm Kathleen Weis, executive director of the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions, and we're recording live from the Alliance 2023 Annual Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. It has been a pleasure getting to connect in person with the healthcare CPD community again. I'm excited to sit down with conference speakers, Rebecca Kolb, Magna Patel and Tina Miller, who just earlier today presented the session “Best Practices for Managing the Regularly Scheduled Series.” Rebecca, Magna, Tina, welcome to the Alliance Podcast.
Unidentified Speaker: Thank you.
Kathleen Weis: Before diving into our discussion, can you each tell us a bit about your career in healthcare CPD and your involvement with the Alliance?
Guest, Tina Miller: Hi, my name is Tina. I've been a CME specialist for six years in July for Henry Ford Health in Detroit, Michigan, but an Alliance member for about five and a half years now. And today was my first presentation that I've been wanting to do for a while and finally did it.
Kathleen Weis: Excellent.
Guest, Magna Patel: Hi, I'm Magna, and I have been in the CE world for about eight years. This was and is my first position in medical education. I am the regularly scheduled series manager. So that includes things like grand rounds, case conferences, anything that's regularly scheduled for faculty.
Guest, Rebecca Kolb: Hello, I'm Rebecca Kolb from Cincinnati Children's Hospital. This is my eighth year in continuing medical education. Eight years prior, I was a quality improvement specialist that helped those nasty guidelines get to the hands of physicians. My work at Children's Hospital, I manage some RSS’s, some large conferences. I do all of our performance improvement programs, a lot of quality improvement programs where we get to do the exciting things and talk about patient outcomes.
Kathleen Weis: Exciting! You guys have had quite the career among the three of you. So we are in the middle of our second full day of sessions here in the conference. And so I'm curious, how is your experience, and any favorite key moments that you'd like to share with us?
Tina Miller: Yes, this is Tina again. I enjoyed a lot of the meetings. One meeting particularly that I took a lot away from is the Global CME/CPD 360 meeting. And it talked about CME availability and how it works all around the world, not just in the United States. So in some countries, the only place people can get continuing education is from pharmaceutical companies. And it can provide quality content, but we all know that can't be bias free. And so a lot of them do not get CME credits, nor do they even recognize it in many instances. Also, they just take whatever they can get at times for educational content, even though it's not bias free, and even if it's not relevant to them, because they're just wanting to learn more. So they go out and search for this content, without waiting for it to approach them, without being consulted about a particular issue. So I found that interesting that you know, us in the United States, the physicians, they get presented with something, then they do the research. And what we found is that all over the world, they do it kind of the opposite. They just learn all of what they can. So when they do come into contact with it, they kind of already know what to do. So that was very interesting.
Magna Patel: The sessions that I found interesting, the first one was actually the very first one, the keynote from yesterday with Dr. Russell Ledet. And he talked about DEI, and it was a presentation where DEI is not usually presented to you that way. And his main point was, everybody has a lens. And I really took that to heart and sometimes we do prejudge people and to try not to do that. And I think that I don't, but when he was talking, there are some things I thought, “OK, you don't do that, but I may do that.” So it was really eye opening to hear DEI presented that way to me, and maybe everybody's not in the same place of getting involved, but just do your part in whatever you feel comfortable with doing. Start, and start somewhere.
Rebecca Kolb: Yeah, this is Rebecca. He definitely made me cry. He said he was going to and he got me at the very end. My favorite session was yesterday, “Assessing Assessments: Are Your Questions Any Good?” And I loved it, because I've asked that about myself every time I look at my evaluation. Are these any good? So much of our reporting is built based on self-report. We don't get a lot of options to be able to collect patient level data or to do chart audits. That was my previous hat. So it kind of blows me away that as I entered the medical education world, those are kind of rare opportunities. So my favorite thing that I took away were six methods. So there's the test, which is my least favorite when I work with planners. They don't want to make them, they don't want to write them, they want to score him. Something we don't do enough is focus groups. I got to do some research where we did incorporate some focus groups. And it's just such rich data when you're collecting it word of mouth. Observational, I have one of my 90 activities that I manage, that we have some observational data with using ultrasounds to find a vein for anesthesiologists. And, you know, I think that I'm not being creative enough to find other ways to use observational data. Then there's archival analysis, which you know, in our industry, nobody has the time or energy to do data mining. And then lastly, those questionnaires. We die and live by them every day. So I'm definitely going to go home and think about different ways to make my questionnaires better … or less of them.
Kathleen Weis: Yeah, I would say Dr. Ledet’s conversation yesterday was very insightful, and definitely not the way previous conferences have ever sort of talked about it. It was sort of very much first person, made you a little uncomfortable. And that's what exactly what it was supposed to be for. It was fantastic. And I love Lawrence. His sessions are always very eye opening on what everyone else is doing. It's easy to get boiled down into us, it's nice to see what other folks are doing.
Alliance Ad Break: Being an Alliance member has its perks. From discounts to industry leading events like the Alliance Annual Conference to members-only access to the Alliance Communities, the Alliance is where healthcare CPD professionals come to learn. Visit acehp.org/membership to join today.
Kathleen Weis: So let's talk a little bit about the session you guys presented: “Best Practices for Managing the Regularly Scheduled Series.” First, for our listeners who are newer to CME, or for those who do not work in a hospital or health system, a regularly scheduled series, or RSS, is a live activity planned as a series with multiple ongoing sessions that are offered weekly, monthly or quarterly. An RSS is primarily planned and presented to the accredited organization’s professional staff, and generally targets the same audience over the whole series. Can you guys share a high level description of the session you presented for those who weren't able to attend or might need a refresher?
Tina Miller: Yeah, so we had an open forum panelist discussion where we each provided our organization's background, the services we offer, the differences and similarities of what we do. We open the floor and address specific questions and topics. The attendees either wrote out from the list that we had above on the screen of what we were going to address, or they just asked live during the session. So that way, they can relate their own experiences and attain more clarity on how to proceed with particular scenarios that they run into on their own workflow.
Kathleen Weis: Excellent. So this session also taught learners how to apply standardization tools, utilize principles of continuous improvement and recognize the role of change management when implementing new processes and procedures. Can you share one learning from each of these learning objectives?
Rebecca Kolb: Absolutely, this is Rebecca. So for us, change management is the learning and adapting to new changes. And so with a regularly scheduled series, that's such a challenge, because that's not just sending one email to one group. That's sending thousands of emails to thousands of people that now have to learn a new way to maintain their compliance. So for us, that's a skill that we execute through various types between the three of us with trainings either in person, with videos, with toolkits. So for our learner population today, it was great because it wasn't just what we shared. It was their own sharings. It became a very collaborative discussion, which was very exciting.
Kathleen Weis: Those are some of the best sessions when you get that . . .
Rebecca Kolb: The buzz. The hive!
Kathleen Weis: The buzz, that's the word. Exactly. So change management is a key component of managing regularly scheduled series. What aspects of change management are crucial for healthcare CPD professionals to understand and apply in these situations?
Tina Miller: It is really important when we get a new RSS coordinator to have that training, either one on one, or what we do in our organization is I do a yearly RSS new application process live training. And we also do a renewal refresher training. And that allows anyone who wasn't able to attend previously or they weren't even part of the organization be able to see live in person and be able to ask questions, as well as I record the session, send it out to everyone afterwards, even anyone who didn't attend or should have attended. And we send out the toolkits, and just any and all information they needed to know to complete their job correctly.
Kathleen Weis: Awesome. Can each of you share your best-kept secret when it comes to creating innovative education series while maintaining that accreditation standard?
Tina Miller: While I don't create the educational content, once the application is submitted, I review it with a focused eye to ensure all ACCME guidelines are met, while ensuring substantial content is described in the activity description, the gaps and needs and objectives, which is where the meat of the course and the reason for its happening is listed. So those are the key points on what to focus on with the application.
Magna Patel: So this is Magna, similar to Tina, same process with the application review, make sure that the content is valid for what they're trying to put on. I do also find it helpful to be organized. And this is not specifically related to RSS, but managing so many series at the start of the year. And you need all kinds of paperwork for compliance. You need some sort of way to keep yourself organized so that you know what you've got and what you don't have. It doesn't have to be complicated. For example, we use a company called Asana for project management, but I was using Smartsheet before. And before that I was using Excel, and everything is a line item, and you just check things off. And so I think that's my best-kept secret. Be organized.
Rebecca Kolb: Yeah, Manga, this is Rebecca. That is so important, time management. And my best-kept secret is boundaries. So we have the luxury of letting our partners know upfront that if you cannot get things in by the deadline, which is a 90-day, 60-day, drop-dead 30-day, that's OK, your education is important. We want you to offer it. You're just not going to be able to offer credit this time. The beauty of a series is that at minimum, you're going to have four year. I don't want anyone losing sleep or stressing because we can't offer credit on that day for that session. There's going to be another. So my best-kept secret would definitely be just boundaries, with grace and poise to say, “It's OK, we're in this together, just not today for credits.”
Kathleen Weis: That’s smart!
Alliance Ad Break: Like what you hear on the Alliance Podcast? Visit almanac.acehp.org to read the latest continuing professional development news and insights. Visit today to get informed and inspired.
Kathleen Weis: During your session, then, did any interesting questions or comments come up from the audience that you'd like to share here with the greater CPD community?
Magna Patel: So one of the more interesting things that we heard that Tina, Rebecca and I didn't discuss, because we don't do it, and I don't think I've ever in my eight years heard anybody do this. There was somebody who manages RSS, and in order for us to approve RSS, we need a certain amount of paperwork to be submitted to us before that session can be approved for offering credits. And she told them she was going to charge a surcharge of $50 if they didn't get it in on time on Nov. 1. Oh no, this was for the session. So if they didn't get it in on time for the sessions, they get a surcharge of $50. So that was for sessions, and then for late applications, they charged $200. And the interesting thing was that nobody is late anymore.
Kathleen Weis: Well, I guess when you're talking about boundaries, there you go. True boundaries hit the pocketbook. Nobody wants to pay a fee, right?
Rebecca Kolb: And another anecdote, I find physicians are very motivated with competition. So if you can share that you are the only group that has been unable to meet this deadline. They're like “Oh, really? Just us?” Then we can do some analysis as to what are the boundaries, and people are motivated if their peers are doing something that they can't see.
Kathleen Weis: Shaming works well. Right? So why does this top matter for healthcare CPD professionals, and adding to that, how can they continue to learn about managing RSS beyond your conference sessions?
Tina Miller: The topic matters because we all, in one way or another, at some point or another, are going to deal with an RSS. Either you've done it, somebody else has taken over, or now you're taking over. So there's various circumstances that we all encounter. And it helps others to know how to respond or what next actions to take for those typical scenarios that happen to ensure a smooth flow of work with the least resistance from the RSS admins that handle the dashboard or handle the coordination of the events. And even the program directors that at point get involved when there's resistance, and to continue learning would be to find out from anyone that you talk to in our RSS group, or any other organizational group that you can put together the tip sheets. What do you do? What do you do when this happens? So my organization, and I believe their organizations as well, have created tip sheets that they share with everyone. So we share it with everyone new, or anybody, like here at the conference, they have requested more information. So we'll be sharing that with everyone else as well.
Magna Patel: So I think RSS is one of those things that everybody who does RSS wants to talk about. And there's not enough places for them to talk to each other. And it's always everybody has little nuances. But everybody has the same requirements for RSS. And it's kind of year after year, they're the same things that everybody's saying. How do you do this? How do you do evaluation? How do you get your coordinators or your departments to get their stuff in on time? And the answer is always: “Do the best you can.” And I think that people get bogged down in those little details, but everybody's just doing the best they can. And I would say that it helps to have colleagues to talk to. And I've talked to Rebecca before on the phone, and I don't know if she remembers, but my old boss and I called her on the phone. We asked about RSS, what LMS are they using. And so that's what we do. We contact our colleagues. And I think that helps, because there are not a lot of, there's one session on RSS in the whole Alliance. And I don't think they had one last year.
Rebecca Kolb: Yeah, I'll comment. It's Rebecca. They haven't had it in three years, because I was a part of the last time they had it. And to follow with Magna, I mean, the community, that's how actually the three of us met. We're in a user's group. Go out there, those in the trenches of the RSS. Find your user groups, find your colleagues, come to the Alliance, go to the sessions that have that and create that community. I think that was the beauty of our session today. We spoke the least. It was the collective that were sharing tips and tricks. I met someone, and they're just one person, and they're doing twice of what I'm doing with a staff of four. So depending on your process, how can you lean things? How can you do things better? It really is creating a sense of community and starting that Rolodex (I'm too old to say Rolodex, right? Young!) of community that you can share with. I took down that I think I might start charging $200 late fees from now on, but I would have never thought of that. So it's coming to the Alliance and finding those that work in programs. That's a really important part of our very intro is we all went around and shared what's our size, what's our volume, what are our resources. Because for something that works at my institution, a nonprofit, free of charge, really a physician service, is not going to work for a paying platform, a different business model. So that would be my recommendation is find your community, and the best place to do it is at the Alliance.
Kathleen Weis: Love it. Rebecca, Magna, Tina, thank you so much for joining me today for today's discussion. It's been so lovely to connect with you and our community here at the Alliance Annual Conference. As we come to a close, do you have any final words of wisdom to share with our listeners?
Tina Miller: It’s very important to have good time management, organizational tools, planning timelines and your hard stops of knowing when something can’t be acceptable anymore.
Magna Patel: I'm going to take from my last answer. And if you're stuck on something, contact your colleagues. Find your group. I would say that's a good thing to take away.
Rebecca Kolb: My last final words of wisdom, every time you do something routinely, keep track of how often you do the same thing, and make time to analyze your processes for better ways that change management. My favorite story, I love to share. My first day on the job in CME, somebody showed me a filing cabinet. And they said, “We have a point five FTE person that takes the RSS attendance sheet out of that filing cabinet, puts it in a database and uploads to PARS and repeats.” And I said, “Well, let's tell her she needs to find something else to do. Because we're going to automate that.” That's sounds awful. Like that just sounds like an awful job. So anytime you find, especially with RSS and you're in the trenches and it's a lot of evolving data. And you're like, “Gosh, this really bugs me, why is this taking too long?” Stop, make a moment to research, find colleagues and ask how can I do this better.
Kathleen Weis: Excellent advice, regardless of what you do. So thank you again. And I hope to see our listeners in Philadelphia, May 1–3, for the Alliance Industry Summit. And if you can't join us there then I really hope that we'll see you next February in New Orleans for the 2024 Annual Conference. Thank you all for being here.
Guests: Thank you, I plan to be there.
Voiceover: Thank you for joining us for another episode of the Alliance Podcast: Continuing Conversations. If you enjoyed this episode, remember to rate, review and subscribe to stay updated on future releases. In the meantime, we invite you to access our wealth of continuing professional development content on the Almanac at almanac.acehp.org. Until next time.
Rebecca Kolb, MA, has devoted 16+ years to healthcare education. She partners with healthcare professionals to design, implement and evaluate accredited educational interventions. Prior to working directly in medical education, she served as a quality improvement consultant for primary care community healthcare professionals. She holds a MA in research methods from Towson University.
Magna Patel, MD, MBA, is the RSS manager for Stanford University School of Medicine. Magna has a background in the healthcare field, and has spent eight years in the field of continuing education. She partners with Stanford departments to develop and manage the Regularly Scheduled Series and Maintenance of Certification/Continuous Certification programs at Stanford Center for Continuing Medical Education.
Tina Miller, BS, is a CME specialist at Henry Ford Health in Detroit. Tina has a background in the healthcare field and has spent 5.5 years in the continuing medial education specialty. She partners with fellow CME specialists and Henry Ford departments to manage the accredited Regulary Scheduled Series, specials, enduring materials, and Maintenance of Certification programs for HFH medical professionals, as well as other physicians and healthcare professionals in the region.