Online Blackboard

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As continuing medical education (CME) moves toward continuing professional development (CPD), more emphasis is being placed on interactive interventions, including eCME.

CPD can start with a didactic lecture and then build stepwise from there, employing a monograph or dinner meeting here, a podcast or streaming video presentation there, with multiple activities serving the different learning styles of healthcare professionals.

Within this environment, online CME is poised to grow off its already impressive base. Pri-Med's Physician Insights Study, released in June 2007, showed physicians had earned 13% of their hours online in the previous year—a 63% increase since 2003. Most attached to their online blackboards: primary care physicians and psychiatrists. Research showed that's due to their heavy patient loads and limited time.

Funders of CME are encouraging providers to experiment with interactivity. “We have only hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of how we can leverage technology to truly fill clinical knowledge gaps,” said Maureen Doyle-Scharff, director, medical education, Pfizer. “It was a novelty 10 years ago. But employing adult learning principles, understanding education design and knowing how interactivity can enhance a learning activity is huge.”

Indeed, the case for eCME goes far beyond the convenience factor, often cited as the main driver of the medium's early growth. 

New formats have kept pace with technological advances, such as satellite radio, and even the ubiquity of Google. Doctors can earn credit for searching for answers to clinical questions on the Web. So-called Internet point-of-care (PoC) CME is recognized by two of the three main issuers of physician credit.

The big online vendors like Epocrates make their content available to clinicians whenever and wherever they need it on handhelds. Medscape, which at last check had planned a PoC offering, produces content that can be accessed on form-factor devices and still sees heavy physician traffic on its websites. 

Docs don't spend all their time online (see box at left). Live continues to be the predominant format. And, as more emphasis is placed on CPD, activities in multiple formats may become standard. What will that mean? More physicians, nurses and allied health professionals clicking for education.
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