Five Reasons to Attend a Live CME Conference

April 1, 2016

Why should you go to a live CME conference? There are multiple benefits, not the least of which is networking with your peers.

Almost every state requires that physicians complete CME credits for maintenance of licensure, and most, if not all, specialty boards mandate CME for board certification. Online learning promises easy, and often free, options to fulfill these requirements. With the constant demands of patient care and paperwork, earning CME at your computer beckons with the promise of efficiency and ease. But what are you missing when you are alone at your desk staring at a glowing screen?

Here are five reasons to turn off the computer and engage in old-fashioned CME at a physician conference:

1. Networking. Use conferences to reconnect to colleagues and introduce yourself to new people. As fewer and fewer physicians care for patients in the hospital, we have lost opportunities for catching up professionally as well as socially. Many conferences include free meals (an ideal opportunity to network) as well as other ways to connect to physicians with similar interests. Speaking with physicians who have different patient populations or practice settings will allow you to expand outside the microcosm of your isolated office.

Local and regional conferences can help you identify specialists for your patients that you hadn't previously been aware of, or even find those within your own specialty to collaborate with. National conferences open up opportunities for sharing your medical knowledge and learning how other physicians across the country tackle the challenges we all face. These interactions can improve your medical practice before you even step into the conference room.

2. Facilitated discussion. Passive learning in front of a computer screen provides less-dynamic interaction with educational material; decreasing the likelihood that you'll remember everything. Although lecture formats still prevail, many conferences have branched out to small group formats, problem-based learning, and flipped classrooms. Engaging in discussion in the classroom facilitates a better understanding of the topic. Many conferences utilize audience response systems, allowing participants to both ask and answer questions during the presentation. You can continue the discussion after the sessions end, over lunch or dinner, or even well after the conference has ended via email and social media.

3. Hands-on workshops. Nothing improves clinical skills like actually getting your hands dirty. Once physicians leave residency training, opportunities for developing new clinical and procedural skills diminish. Video demonstrations just cannot compete with handling equipment or participating in a simulation. Not only do participants learn new skills, but many conferences can put you in contact with local and regional representatives who can help you actually put those skills into practice in your office.

4. Getting beyond the headlines. Healthcare topics reverberate in the news. New regulations and mandates can create havoc and rumors of pending legislations seep into the office - often without a true understanding of what is actually going on. Many conferences, particularly specialty societies, include advocacy sessions demystifying complex regulations and requirements such as proposed payment models and quality markers. These sessions may also open up opportunities to get more involved on the issues that matter to you.

5. Something new. Medicine evolves constantly and live conferences with field experts put you at the forefront of new information. Often in our offices, keeping up on new innovation is cumbersome as we can be stuck in the rut of routine. Conferences can alert you to changes in patient-care guidelines and new recommendations, or identify new diagnostic and treatment possibilities coming through research. Many conferences have exhibition booths flush with the newest ideas for revamping tired workflows, improving patient care, and enhancing medical knowledge.

Attending live CME conferences provide numerous benefits, and while they cannot replace the convenience of online CME, conferences are excellent resources for education and camaraderie. Many conference opportunities exist, so choosing can be challenging. Look for offerings by state medical societies or national specialty societies - many of these organizations have annual general meetings as well as smaller more specialized offerings. Ask colleagues where they go for CME. Combine business and pleasure by opting for a CME cruise or a destination CME conference. Whatever conference you opt for, get away from your desk and your office and embrace the exciting learning forums a conference offers.