Will COVID-19 Change CME Forever?
We all know that COVID-19 changed CME in 2020. Live meetings were canceled. Providers started broadcasting virtual sessions. Enduring activities and webinars became a preferred activity type for many learners.
But will those changes continue beyond the COVID-19 era? Will the crisis have other long-lasting impacts on CME, even after the situation improves and live meetings are safe once again?
The answer to both questions, probably, is yes.
Medical education was already changing. COVID forced its hand.
A recent article published in JAMA explains how the pandemic is having and will continue to have wide-ranging effects on medical education writ large.
“[M]any will remember the COVID-19 pandemic as a source of disruption,” write authors Catherine R. Lucey, MD and S. Claiborne Johnston, MD, PhD; however, “it is likely that it will also be viewed as a catalyst for the transformation of medical education that has been brewing for the past decade.”
“Educators across the country recognized that the physician workforce needed for the 21st century not only must embrace the enduring competencies of professionalism, service to patients, and personal accountability, but also must embrace new competencies that are better suited to addressing today’s health challenges. These emerging competencies include […] [incorporating] data and technology in service to patient care, research, and education […]”
Although the authors focus on medical education, there’s no reason to think these changes won’t impact CME in much the same matter. In fact, they already do.
For years now, CME learners have preferred a largely virtual experience and providers have increasingly used data to inform their activity offerings and produce relevant content. Now, with the pandemic making it all but impossible to conduct live CME meetings, providers have been compelled to embrace technology (and the data it’s capable of generating) in service to their CME learners.
The move to virtual, at first, was likely an inconvenience for many. After all, who wants to cancel a meticulously planned annual conference and scramble to repurpose CME credit-bearing sessions for the web? However, in making the transition from live to virtual, providers:
- Developed competence in virtual CME meetings and/or webinar activities
- Created and delivered enduring CME activities, perhaps for the first time
- Learned to use new technologies for content and activity management
- Devised new protocols for communicating with learners
- Embraced web-based CME management tools out of necessity
In other words, they became proficient at virtual CME. And that proficiency isn’t just going to disappear when COVID stops being a threat.
As the authors explain, “In supporting learning during these times, schools and learners pilot tested new methods of instruction […] and rethought their approach to assessment.”
It is likely, if not certain, that CME providers who transitioned from live to virtual activities will continue to provide more online learning opportunities. Learners were already expecting these things, and providers are now able to meet that demand.
And after live meetings resume?
One day they will. When they do, providers can start planning and hosting meetings again. The thing is, they won’t be tied to live meetings anymore.
The technological competencies that providers cultivated during the pandemic will make them more flexible and versatile in their overall approach to CME. Live sessions will return for the learners who prefer them, but providers can continue adapting CME for learners with tighter schedules or just a preference for virtual activities.
Per Lucey and Johnston:
“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health response required to minimize the catastrophic spread of the disease required an immediate change in the traditional approach to medical education and clearly amplified the need for expanding the competencies of the US physician workforce.”
Providers aren’t the only ones who have adapted to virtual CME. Learners have adapted, too. Many learners who rarely or never opted for online CME in the past have begun doing so. They won’t forget how, and many likely prefer the convenience of getting CME this way.
We’ve watched this play out in real time.
At Rievent, we’ve seen firsthand how CME and CE providers changed their approach for the pandemic era. Needless to say, there are more virtual meetings, more webinars, and more providers dipping their toes into enduring materials.
Today, that’s all out of necessity. Tomorrow, it will be because learners expect it and because more providers are able to offer CME this way.
At the same time, many providers have learned just how valuable it can be to manage online CME with a dedicated software application. They get robust data on demand, online tests and surveys, and automated credit processing for every learner and activity.
Aside from the initial learning curve, which most CME providers have cleared by now, CME administration is a lot easier this way! That’s something that won’t change when the pandemic is over.
So, yes. COVID-19 will probably change CME forever.
In the long run, we think those changes will make CME more flexible for learners. Providers, by the same token, will have more ways to offer CME and more tools for delivering it with minimal administrative burden.
The COVID era is tough for everyone, but these changes are a breath of fresh air.