A Solution To All Of CME’s Funding Problems

Got your attention, didn’t I?

True, I may have indulged in a bit of hyperbolic excess with that title, but hear me out. Maybe a more appropriate title would be “Re-imagining The Current CME Funding Model”. I’ll explain.

Currently, there are two basic ways that CME activities are funded: 1) participants pay a fee; and 2) somebody else pays for it. The bulk of #2 is accomplished through commercial support from pharma companies, device manufacturers, yadda yadda. Yes, there are a few other sources (society dues, institutional funds, etc), but for the sake of this conversation, I’m focusing on sources of funding for activities for which there is not an already established pool of money to draw from.

Both of these sources of funding have their flaws. Relying on participant fees can be tough because it’s often difficult to predict how many participants you will have and if you overestimate that number, then you’ve got problems. And do I really need to go into the issues of relying on commercial support for funding? Even if we discount the negative publicity and public perception that is associated  with commercial support of CME (which we can’t, really) there still remains the issue of the physical process of applying for grants. Seriously, how much time and resources is involved in submitting a single grant to multiple potential supporters? Every company has its own process for accepting grant submissions and they’re all different. Once a grant is submitted, you might hear a decision in…a month? 2 months? 6 months? A year? It’s hard to say. Everyone is different, few are consistent.

So, is there a better way? Is there a way to better predict how many participants will pay a fee for a CME activity? Is there a way to help reduce the negative public perception of funding CME via commercial support? Is there a way to simplify the grant process for CME providers? Is there a way to do all of these things at once?


Ever heard of Kickstarter?  As described on their website, “Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.” You have a project, you describe it on Kickstarter, other people learn about your project, they give you money. That’s basically how it works. The key is the all or nothing approach. You set a date and if you don’t reach your funding goal by that date, no money changes hands. It’s brilliant, really. Sadly, Kickstarter is only interested in what they deem “creative projects”. Most CME activities would not fit into their designated categories.

Ever heard of Petridish? It’s basically the Kickstarter of science. Here’s a blurb from a recent article that explains the concept.

Science in the U.S. is slated for a devastating blow on January 2, 2013 when the debt deal Congress passed last year kicks in, implementing a 9% cut in science funding lasting until 2021. While university infrastructures will be hit hard, the cuts will put a chokehold on research funding, reducing grants and increasing competition for them. Yet, there’s hope. An alternative to federal funding recently launched named Petridish.org, a Kickstarter-esque startup that democratizes science funding by crowdsourcing it, providing a platform for researchers to pitch their science proposals directly to the public and allowing users to make scientific history by backing them.

You know where I’m going with this, right? What if we had a Kickstarter style platform for CME funding? Just imagine this for a moment:

  • Instead of going to multiple websites and submitting grants in multiple formats, CME providers would go to one website and upload one version of their proposal
  • They could go beyond the traditional written proposal and upload videos explaining their potential project, actual interviews with KOL’s instead of written blurbs, visual demonstrations, etc
  • Anyone could come view the proposals, increasing the transparency of the grant funding process
  • Instead of paying a fee to participate in an already completed project, potential participants could come and look at all the potential CME activities and donate as much or as little as they want to the activities they have the most interest in
  • Grantors could come and look at the projects that most interest them and donate through the website. No more sifting through hundreds of unsolicited grant proposals every month/week.
  • Non-traditional CME funders such as patient advocacy groups, mainstream retailers, and others might have their curiosity piqued to come take a look and contribute to a project that lines-up with their interests
  • If the funding goal isn’t reached by the target date, no money changes hands.

There you go: an easier grant submission process, greater encouragement of funding from multiple sources, and increased transparency in the process. I love it (of course I do – I thought of it.)

Now, do I think it will ever happen? Doubtful. Do I think commercial supporters would agree to forego there own grant submission sites for one general site they have no control over? No. Do I think there is some possibility of a Kickstarter-esque CME funding website that allows HCP’s, advocacy groups, societies, etc., to contribute to activities they have an interest in and would help CME providers fill-in the gaps left by traditional funding sources? Definitely.

So who’s in? Who wants to build it? Who has a catchy name (CMEaltFund? CMEcrowdFund? FundCME? JukeboxPunch? Yikes, those are all terrible…). Is it a totally ridiculous idea or is it actually plausible? Let me know what you think!


7 responses to “A Solution To All Of CME’s Funding Problems

  1. I like this idea. A lot. I also think that you could add to it for the public, like fundraisers for certain disease states such as Susan G. Koman and Team in Training. I’d prefer to donate to specific CME activities which I have a vested interest in…and I’d want to see actual change data for the physicians. I wonder if physicians would participate in something like this if they knew it was getting paid for…

    • Exactly, Pam. One of the beauties of the Kickstarter platform that I didn’t really go into is the rewards system. Rewards are what backers receive in return for their support. An outcomes report would be an excellent reward. “Donate X amount of dollars and receive a nicely formatted outcomes summary complete with data report”. You get the idea…

  2. Yep – you’ve got it! The reward idea is perfect. It’s what commercial supporters expect (with outcomes, please) and other, more public contributors (eg insurance companies, joe/Susie patient, or large healthcare systems – not part of the normal pool of funders) would like to see. So how do we spread this idea to get buy in??

    • Well…that’s a good question. I guess step 1 would be to start sharing the idea with others and get their thoughts. I’ve been sharing it as much as possible on twitter, facebook, linkedin, G+, but at some point, people get tired of seeing it from the same source. To really get buy in, it needs to be shared by others, not just me…

  3. But wouldn’t it be great if PATIENTS could fund CME? Be the driver behind their physicians- make the physicians accountable for their learning?

  4. so, are you saying that 10% of all payments to our physicians should be earmarked for CPD? Sorry, my dear, I won’t live long enough to see that happen — hope you do….

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