7 Tech Tips for Online Continuing Medical Education
By now, many CME providers offer online activities in some form or another. In addition to live meetings, you might offer webinars. Or maybe enduring materials are a mainstay among your learners who obtain CME online – even as other learners prioritize your events.
Whatever your situation, it’s never too late to improve your approach to online continuing medical education. Whether the web is your primary CME delivery method or you’re just getting started with web-based formats, these seven tips will help you optimize the online experience for learners and your administrative staff.
1. Not devoting enough attention to online CME? It’s time to start.
As of 2016, live CME activities made up nearly half of all activities offered by accredited providers. Know what came in second place? Online enduring materials. Journal activities, another predominantly online activity type, remain popular as well.
With CME technology becoming more sophisticated and more learners searching for ways to optimize their time, it’s a safe bet that online CME will continue to grow in the years ahead. In other words, now is the time to improve how you create and deliver CME online.
Learners even prefer an online experience for live meeting administration. The more you can simplify tasks like registration, requests for credit, and certificate access via online tools, the happier your learners will be.
2. Automate outcomes assessments.
With the ACCME’s focus on outcomes, providers are more determined than ever to discover whether – and to what effect – learners apply CME insights in the workplace. Providers are also looking for more ways to analyze performance, assess outcomes, and implement changes that result in better patient and community health.
So, how can you effectively and efficiently collect outcomes assessments? Through technology, of course. But you have to do it right. Here’s how:
- Create a post-activity outcomes survey that speaks to the types of performance changes you’d like to see learners implementing in their practice.
- Decide on a date following participation to send the survey to learners.
- Schedule the automatic delivery of the survey to participating learners via email; you’ll need CME software that accommodates this, of course.
- Collect the data from learners, analyze it, and use it to inform your CME changes.
The beauty of this process is that it’s automatic. You can set it up before a learner even participates in an activity and just wait for the survey results to roll in.
3. Bring more of the learner experience online.
How much of it should you bring online? As much as possible. And not just for your learners, but for your own administrators.
Paper-based attendance sheets? Online registration and learner-initiated credit claims take care of those. Learners don’t have to fill them out; your staff doesn’t have to collect them.
Evaluation handouts? Have learners complete them online and never collate another stack of evaluations.
Transcript and certificate requests? Transition them to a learner-managed, online interface so that you never have to field another document request.
And so on. A web-based experience is far more efficient than a “paper-plus-spreadsheet-plus-data entry” experience. Learners will relish the difference. So will your staff.
4. Simplify PARS reporting with automation.
For many CME providers, annual PARS reporting is an annual hassle. But with CME-focused technologies, like a CME learning management system, it doesn’t have to be.
By transitioning to tools that collect PARS data in the background as learners complete activities, you can reduce PARS reporting to a five-minute event. Just download the PARS file to your computer and upload it to the ACCME website. That’s all.
For more about how this might work, check out how the Rievent Platform automates PARS reporting.
5. Link certificate and transcript updates to online credit claims.
Remember our comment about making certificate and transcript requests a learner-managed exercise? The best way to do that is to link them to credit claims.
Let’s say a learner completes a CME activity online. She finishes her post-test with a satisfactory score. Automatically, her credit claim is requested, received, and processed without any intervention by CME administrators. She wants an updated transcript that reflects her new credit, so she clicks through your learner interface and retrieves one – a 100% up-to-date transcript that includes the credit she earned just moments ago!
She was able to that because your software links credit claims to transcript updates. In much the same way, learners should be able to retrieve up-to-date certificates on demand.
It’s all possible when you use software that integrates all core CME processes.
6. Collect data – and use it!
One of the biggest obstacles to improving existing CME activities (and discovering opportunities for new ones) is data. In particular, a lack of data.
In the absence of focused, comprehensive CME technologies for learners and administrators, most CME providers are stuck with limited data collection tools and inefficient data analysis capabilities. After all, it’s a lot harder to sort through spreadsheet data or comb through paper-based evaluations than, say… pull a comprehensive report on learner participation or survey results!
When transitioning to new CME technologies, insist on using tools that offer substantial data collection capabilities. Not sure what sort of CME data to collect? Here’s a primer on what’s possible, data-wise.
7. Know why you’re doing all of this.
Sometimes, it makes sense to step back and remind yourself why you’re prioritizing CME technology improvements. There are several reasons:
- Efficiency: You can continue to do what you already do – build activities, deliver them to learners, and analyze performance – but you do it faster and better.
- Precision: More robust data collection results in smarter learner-focused enhancements to your CME activities.
- ROI: At for-profit providers, a better, more efficient CME experience can result in increased revenue for the organization.
- ROE: That’s “return on education.” A better, more efficient CME experience can result in increased participation and a higher return on educational investments.
- Time: When you spend less time on administration, you have more time for improving education.
Ultimately, CME technology is an investment. It doesn’t exist to make you feel good about how you deliver CME – although the right tools definitely will make you feel good about the experience you’re providing! – it’s there to provide a return in the form of better activities for your learners.
Invest the right technologies, and that’s exactly what you’ll get.