What Do We Do With Bad CME?


Have you ever gotten a brochure or an e-mail or a fax-blast (do people still do those?) for a CME program that made you think, “This is CME?”

Ever gone to a satellite symposium, read a journal supplement, or watched a webcast that had you scrambling back to the front matter to find out what CME provider would dare certify such dreck? (No? Just me? Ohhhh…this is awkward. Just humor me and pretend you have.)

It happens. CME is the field I work in and one in which I (mostly) enjoy working. If you have read this blog at all, you know I spend a good amount of time defending the CME community against what I consider unfairly negative publicity. But I acknowledge that the community is not perfect and there are times when CME activities are presented that just shouldn’t be CME (not from any organization I’ve worked for, of course. Ahem. Butt. Covered. Moving on…). So the question is:

What do we do with “bad” CME?

I am a CME provider and I’m coming at this from the perspective of a CME Provider, but the spark for writing about it came from a CME participant. Dr. Jen Gunter, a popular physician blogger and tweeter (at least, I think she’s popular. I enjoy her work, anyway.) wrote a fiery, outraged blog post about her recent experience at a CME-certified medical conference. In her blog entry, titled “I just attended the worst CME lecture of my life…and what I did about it!“, Dr. Gunter minces few words in describing the content of one particular presentation which, in her opinion, wass most certainly NOT CME. But rather than just sit back and grumble and complain to her fellow participants, she does something about it. She writes extensively on the evaluation form, finds a conference organizer to express her outrage over the program, and even shoots an email off to Murray Kopelow, CEO of the ACCME (this is not stated in her blog, but she tweeted about it later). Needless to say, she was pissed. Kudos to her.

As a CME provider, what should my response be if I was in a similar situation? Or for that matter, what if I wasn’t even a participant but randomly came across a CME activity that made me think “Wow! This is really bad.”? I see four options:

1. Do nothing. Guilty. I’m guessing this is the most common response to bad CME. Shame on us all. I believe this lack of action comes from a “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” mentality.  This is understandable to a certain point, but I think a better response would be option #2.

2. Talk to the CME provider. I like this option. Give the other guy a chance to make things right. Yes, things should have been made right from the very beginning, but sometimes things happen beyond our control (anyone ever have a faculty member “go rogue”?) the downside of this option? Super awkward conversation to have between CME providers (“Hey, you know that CME activity of yours? Yeah, that things a piece of crap.”)

3. Tell the ACCME. Undoubtedly, this is what SHOULD be done. Tell the ACCME and let them handle it from there. I suppose there may be some debate over how well they handle these complaints, but I don’t know enough about it to judge. I am interested to see how things resolve with Dr. Gunter’s complaint to the ACCME. I hope we hear more about it.

4. Nominate the program for the Carlat CME Institute’s CME Rogue’s Gallery. Now THIS is interesting. I’ll admit that when I first saw Dr. Carlat’s tweets about it, I thought it smelled a bit like a witch hunt. I still have deep reservations about it, but…it certainly made me think. Maybe this is what the CME community needs. Maybe we have been too lenient on perpetrators of bad CME in the past and public shaming and humiliation is what they deserve.

In the end, if I’m ever again faced with this issue, I’m likely either going with option #2 or #3. What’s sad to me is that I even have to be thinking about this. I’m sad that these types of CME programs still exists and disheartened that people still have experiences like Dr. Gunter’s. The CME community may not be perfect, but we can’t sit idly by, either. We have a responsibility to do something about it.


2 responses to “What Do We Do With Bad CME?

  1. Good post. I’ve actually done #2 before, because it was a large provider, I knew of and respected the person who was in charge of CME, and I was willing to venture a guess that they gave the planner carte blanche to plan whatever he/she wanted (I’m guessing this is a large part of this problem).

    The problem is, I think a lot of “bad” CME is done by rubber-stamping providers- providers who will charge a fee to non-accredited providers to just grant them blanket credit without managing the content. It is hard as a good CME provider to go up against that, either by telling them (do you think they’d really care) or by trying to plan your own activities (but so and so does it that way).

    I think if the notification system to the ACCME was anonymous, there would be a lot more sharing of information. I’m sure the ACCME doesn’t want to hear sour grapes, but some providers should be taken to task for their CME.

    We can continue to fight the good fight and pray for the best.

    Or get CME Hulk on them.

  2. Ah, you have just brought back a fax blast memory…which I shall not discuss on the blog but WILL tell you about when next I see you. Just remind me of the “curl up and die” email….

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