Continuing medical education

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Continuing medical education (CME) is a form of continuing professional development (CPD) that consists of educational activities which serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance and relationships that a medical practitioner uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession [1]. The content of CME is that body of knowledge and skills generally recognized and accepted by the profession as within the basic medical sciences, the discipline of clinical medicine, and the provision of health care to the public.

CME activities are educational interventions that rely on evidence based medicine to provide direction to medical practitioners to meet educational needs and ultimately improve patient care. These activities may take place as live events, written publications, online programs, audio, video, or other electronic media[2]. Content for these programs is developed, reviewed, and delivered by faculty who are experts in their individual clinical areas. Similar to the process used in academic journals, any potentially conflicting financial relationships for faculty members must be both disclosed and resolved in a meaningful way [3].

In 2005 there were 79,820 activities that were approved or accredited as official CME, compared to 48,092 in 1998[4][5]. Funding for CME activities may come from a variety of sources, including government, the private sector, managed care organizations, hospitals, academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and industry. Total funding for CME in 2005 was $2.25 billion of which, $1.12 billion was from commercial support.

Format of content

Two interactive formats are[1]:

  • Case-based learning (CBL) which "uses a guided inquiry method and provides more structure during small-group sessions"[1].
  • Problem-based learning (PBL) is an " open inquiry approach" with less guidance from instructors[1].

Case-based learning may be more effective than other formats[2][3][4]; multimedia may further enhance delivery[2].

Providers of CME

Many organizations provide CME or facilitate CME delivery, including government[6] private[7] [8] [9], not-for-profit [10] [11] [12], professional societies[13] [14], and academic institutions[15] [16].

Oversight of CME quality

Due to the potential for "commercial bias" the overseeing body of the CME enterprise has developed and maintains its "Standards for Commercial Support" to maintain the independence and quality of CME[17]. Organizations like the Alliance for CME, which is the largest professional organization for CME professionals, hold frequent meetings and events to discuss the issues surrounding these standards and the evolution of the CME enterprise.

Public media sources have occasionally placed medical education under scrutiny [5].

The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) is a body that oversees the allopathic CME enterprise. Osteopathic CME is governed by the Board of Trustees for CME of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

The ACCME is composed of seven member organizations[18], including the [American Medical Association] and the [American Board of Medical Specialties]. The ACCME's Mission is the identification, development, and promotion of standards for quality continuing medical education (CME) utilized by physicians in their maintenance of competence and incorporation of new knowledge to improve quality medical care for patients and their communities[19].

The ACCME fulfills its mission through a voluntary self-regulated system for accrediting CME providers and a peer-review process responsive to changes in medical education and the health care delivery system.

Many regulatory bodies make a doctor's registration or licensure conditional on the acquisition of CME "credits" through accredited CME activities. Each state has various CME requirements for physicians and other clinicians who wish to maintain their licensure.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Srinivasan M, Wilkes M, Stevenson F, Nguyen T, Slavin S (2007). "Comparing problem-based learning with case-based learning: effects of a major curricular shift at two institutions". Acad Med. 82 (1): 74–82. doi:10.1097/01.ACM.0000249963.93776.aa. PMID 17198294.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Casebeer L, Brown J, Roepke N, Grimes C, Henson B, Palmore R; et al. (2010). "Evidence-based choices of physicians: a comparative analysis of physicians participating in Internet CME and non-participants". BMC Med Educ. 10: 42. doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-42. PMC 2892500. PMID 20537144.
  3. Al-Azri H, Ratnapalan S (2014). "Problem-based learning in continuing medical education: review of randomized controlled trials". Can Fam Physician. 60 (2): 157–65. PMC 3922562. PMID 24522680.
  4. Casebeer L, Engler S, Bennett N, Irvine M, Sulkes D, DesLauriers M; et al. (2008). "A controlled trial of the effectiveness of internet continuing medical education". BMC Med. 6: 37. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-6-37. PMC 2612689. PMID 19055789.
  5. Abelson, R. Charities Tied to Doctors Get Drug Industry Gifts. New York Times 2006

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