How COVID-19 has accelerated digital disruption in CME

Diane Bartoli

Vice President and General Manager of epocrates

By leveraging mobile-optimized digital learning options to complete CME requirements, physicians can better navigate around busy schedules with a range of CME course lengths and educational formats.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has visibly shifted the ways in which providers are delivering care, there has also been a significant disruption among one of the more invisible pieces within this incredibly complex industry as well: medical learning.

Medical learning is often an overlooked side of healthcare, but it’s frequently on the minds of clinicians, as they’re required to complete a certain amount of activities, based on occupation and state, of continuing medical education (CME) credits to maintain their licensure. It’s also key to ensuring health systems and hospitals can continue delivering the highest-quality care for patients.

Since the onset of the pandemic however, many clinicians have faced new obstacles while trying to keep up with CME credits. For decades, the most popular way to obtain CME credits was through attending in-person medical events. For the past year, these have been non-existent, and for good reason—just consider the March 2020 Biogen conference that became a super-spreader event and allegedly sparked Boston's COVID-19 outbreak, potentially causing as many as 330,000 cases worldwide.

But now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to harness the momentum spurred by the pandemic to accelerate innovative digital tools that can help clinicians stay updated on the latest medical developments. The benefits of doing so will have long-lasting impacts that extend far beyond the immediate needs of COVID-19.

Tailoring medical education to a clinician’s specialty, practice, and unique needs 

The transition from primarily in-person educational events to an on-demand, digital learning environment provides clinicians with an increased opportunity to stay abreast of the latest medical developments in their specialty area in order to enhance their practice and continue to deliver the highest quality care without delay. Just consider the value of these types of tools in the early stages of the pandemic when our understanding of the virus, the primary cause of transmission, and how to care for patients changed almost daily. 

Fitting CME into a busy clinician schedule

Physicians have always had busy schedules—in today’s environment that translates even further to longer shifts, an unpredictable wave of patient volumes, and rapidly-shifting hospital procedures. As a result, not only do we need to adopt a more digital learning environment, it needs to be available anywhere, on any device, at any time.

By leveraging mobile-optimized digital learning options to complete CME requirements, physicians can better navigate around busy schedules with a range of CME course lengths and educational formats. These include short “snackable” activities which have gained popularity in recent years and can be done while commuting or on a work break, to more in-depth longer form activities that can be done during a physician’s free time at home. In particular, the growing trend of shorter form, digital CME will continue to gain traction, even post-COVID, as the easily digestible, “snackable” content accommodates providers’ schedules. Just-in-time digital learning will ultimately complement in-person, longer-form CME that’s already starting to make a comeback.

Innovative technology will continue to evolve our approach to clinician learning

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has caused the entire healthcare ecosystem to reimagine an industry a century in the making. But it has also helped create excitement among clinicians, who have traditionally been the most skeptical of the innovations attempting to entirely disrupt day-to-day operations. In fact, 93 percent of physicians who responded to one survey even say they expect to use digital tools for clinical-decision support after the pandemic ends.

As we think big about how to transform the industry’s landscape though, it’s crucial that we also extend our focus to the seemingly small—and often invisible—pieces of healthcare, like digital medical learning, which can often have some of the largest impacts. By doing so we can not only help clinicians overcome the immediate needs of today, but may also improve health outcomes, create a better patient experience, and reduce the total cost of care long after the pandemic ends.

About the Author
Diane Bartoli is Vice President and General Manager of epocrates