Beyond the Lecture: Stanford Medicine Experiments With New CME Activity Formats

How can CME providers keep learners engaged? At the Stanford Center for Continuing Medical Education, course creators are attempting to broaden the appeal of their CME activities through media-rich content and video dramatizations of patient-physician interactions.

As supporters of innovation across all aspects of the continuing education landscape, we applaud these efforts and look forward to learning about the results. If Stanford can link these new activities to improvements in patient outcomes, CME providers will have a major case study in how activity formats – in particular, video activities – can impact institutional effectiveness.

Let’s take a look at what Stanford’s efforts could mean for learner engagement, patient outcomes, and the future of online CME.

A new approach to online CME content

According to Dr. Kimberly Walker, a Stanford Medicine instructional designer, the goal of these new CME activities is “[breaking] free of the passive culture of lecture” to help learners “visualize what’s being taught.” Instead of just watching people speak or reading articles, learners gain exposure to relevant CME subject matter in formats that are as enjoyable to consume as they are valuable to the learner’s practice.

In one activity, video content uses actors demonstrate what actually occurs in doctors’ offices in cases of prescription drug misuse. Dr. Anna Lembke, a Stanford assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, created the scripts for each dramatization with the goal of creating content that is “far more interesting than a deck of slides.”

We’ve seen video lectures and webinars, but a series of dramatizations is brand new territory. While we haven’t viewed the content ourselves, it certainly strikes us as a great way to capture learners’ attention and show them some real-world scenarios they’re likely to experience.

The same can be said of a new activity on antibiotic timeout, which uses illustrated case studies to educate learners on how to avoid overprescribing antibiotics. Instead of a video lecture or slide deck, learners view photographic images of organisms and illustrations of the molecular structures of specific medications. The goal is to give the content real-world, applicable relevance that learners can use to inform decisions they make with patients.

Measuring engagement

Let’s say learners give this interactive content high marks in their post-activity evaluations. Does that make it a success?

In the long run, outcomes are what matter most. The question of whether these content formats – which we’re sure make for an enjoyable, informative CME experience – are a success hinges on two factors:

  1. Whether the content translates into action from clinicians
  2. Whether action from clinicians leads to better health outcomes in patients

Effective CME content can come in many formats. Different learners also learn best in different ways, so entertaining video dramatizations might not be as effective for some learners as something more traditional, like a journal-based activity.

If nothing else, the new Stanford CME activities show CME providers what’s possible. As learners start demanding activities that align with how they like to consume content online, we’re sure to see more CME videos, more interactive activity formats, and more competition for learners’ attention.