One hundred years ago, students could enter dozens of medical schools after completing less than 4 years of high school. Even Harvard Medical School admitted some students without an undergraduate degree. With a few notable exceptions, most medical training was considered mediocre. And if you wanted to continue your formal studies after medical school, you were on your own.
For today's health professionals, getting into college is competitive. But education doesn't stop—and can't stop—with a degree. Continuing education isn't an extra. It's a requirement.
In 2010, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) began offering Continuing Medical Education/Continuing Education (CME/CE) credits through its Effective Health Care Program. Free credit classes are available to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and other health professionals. Content for the courses comes from comparative effectiveness reviews, which provide systematic appraisals of scientific evidence on common conditions such as arthritis, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The reviews are part of the growing field of patient-centered outcomes research, also called comparative effectiveness research, which evaluates the benefits and harms of treatment options.
The Program's first CME/CE modules were created by the John M. Eisenberg Center for Clinical Decisions and Communications Science at Baylor College of Medicine. In 2011, with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Agency expanded online courses through a contract with PRIME Education, Inc., a medical education provider. In addition, Total Therapeutic Management provides in-person accredited CME/CE to clinicians in their offices.
"We didn't know what to expect when we first started," said Kathleen Moreo, R.N., president of PRIME. "We found that clinicians seek this type of unbiased education." Indeed, within 60 days of its first CME/CE modules being released, PRIME issued more than 1,000 CME/CE certificates.
Every person who receives a certificate also participates in a post-test. Michael Fordis, M.D., director of the Eisenberg Center, said "We found that 95 percent of clinicians who complete the CME find them relevant to their practice and about 55 percent find them very relevant."
This isn't surprising to Frank Urbano, M.D., medical director of care coordination at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ. He recently completed a course comparing treatments for patients with type 2 diabetes. "A lot of CME courses come from commercial interests," said Dr. Urbano. "They tend to be focused on one particular disease or treatment. The AHRQ classes give you a chance to look at what's out there to treat a condition and how the treatments compare. It gives you an objective measure."
AHRQ's free CME/CE classes give clinicians another choice to keep current. For more information, go to http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/cme-ce.cfm. To learn more about the program, go to the
Effective Health Care Program