Free CME? Who in their right mind believes that?
In the past month or so I have seen a plethora of advertisements offering “free CME”. And I am talking about activities approved by an ACCME accredited provider. Physicians are pointed to a web site or to a newly developed relationship between a Medical Communications Company and a healthcare organization where they can take advantage of these “free” educational resources. If you search Google using the terms “free CME ” you get over 5 million hits. My friends this is not free. Someone is paying for it and it is probably a pharmaceutical company. What is really being saying is that physicians don’t have to pay for the CME activity. But that doesn’t make it free.
I am tempted to say “You get what you pay for” but it doesn’t fit here. Many of these “free” educational activities are excellent learning resources. They are well designed, evidenced based, high quality resources. But they are not free. It costs handsomely to put these things together. There are also the costs of delivering the resources – IT, servers, web design, writers, artists, layout experts, etc. In some contracts the production (MECC) company gets compensation for every physician they attract to the “free” resourced. No, these are not free.
Every physician should have to pay for every CME credit they take. If they had to do this many physicians might be more diligent in the CME activities they select to address their specific learning needs. When there is all of this “free” CME out there it is may be too easy to just take what is readily available at no cost and many times probably with no relevance to the patients they are seeing.
I’ve been in the CME enterprise long enough to remember when there was no “free CME”. Pharmaceutical companies were not comitting nearly a billion dollars a year too pay for physicians CME. No way.
Pharma monies given through their Independent Medical Education Grants have made excellent CME resources available to the physician community. I hope the CME enterprise grasps the kinds of educational resources these companies currently want to support. It is education where outcomes must be demonstrated. It is not the same old worn out CME meetings. This kind of CME costs money to produce and deliver. This kind of CME cost physicians effort and should cost them money to engage in.
Pharmaceutical companies should not fund any company to develop a learning activity that doesn’t pass some cost on to the physician learner. The company producing the resource should have to bear some of the risk in developing and delivering these resources. If physicians don’t use the resource they produce they lose. If physicians flock to their resource they share in the income. Having all of the production and delivery expenses paid by pharma and receiving utilization fees puts them at no risk. What a sweet deal.
It is well past time to change the business model. There should be no such thing as “Free CME”.