Close to 80,000 physicians participated in Internet searching and learning in 2006, according to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).
How does the format work? Physicians raise a clinical question about a specific patient, research the question online from a database of evidence-based resources and receive half a credit.
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians require a three-step cycle: documenting the clinical question, consulting sources and submitting the application to practice. Just like many of the web's consumer applications, CME is also aggressively migrating from the Internet to the mobile web.
One of the goals of Epocrates is to give doctors access to CME learning on the go, according to Jeff Tangney, EVP, sales & marketing.
“You can click on CME from your little handy device when you are sitting at an airport, at a board meeting or waiting for your kid's soccer game to end and quickly read an article and at the end answer some questions about it,” he says. “Similar to CME you see in journals or online, basically you answer some questions. Once you answer the questions, and get them right, you earn your credit.”
Epocrates offers half-credit activities but also conducts hour-long credits, and 15-minute credits on its mobile platforms.
Apple's iPhone—which was released last year—is revolutionizing the ways doctors participate in CME. iPhone's chief benefit may be its web browser, something that “doesn't set any limits on the types of media that we can integrate,” according to Sandeep Shah, CEO, Skyscape.
But while iPhone is impressive, it may not supplant the one device many young hospitalists carry, the Palm Treo, says Michael Elhert, MD, president, American Medical Students Association.
“All the doctors I know, it's not about e-mail,” he says. “It's about their drug programs, their treatment protocols…I'm not sure how the iPhone would be terribly unique.”