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Physician interest in online CME is strong

A survey looking at physicians’ technology use finds that the majority prefer online learning that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

By — Posted May 14, 2012

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There is a demand among physicians for continuing medical education training that can be accessed on the go.

A survey by ON24 and MedData Group found that 84% of physicians would prefer attending CME events online. Among the benefits physicians expect from Web-based CME is the ability to view the content “on demand” while avoiding the hassles and costs of traveling.

ON24, a virtual communication technology vendor with headquarters in San Francisco, and MedData Group, an interactive content and database marketing services company based in Topsfield, MA., surveyed 971 physicians across a variety of specialties about their digital behaviors. The survey found that physicians are “more mobile than ever before,” and that is impacting the way they want to access educational materials.

“We’re looking at a significant change in how doctors say they use and want to use virtual technology,” said Bill Reinstein, president and CEO of MedData Group. “The results of the survey point to wider adoption and more meaningful use of online training anytime, anywhere.”

The survey found that 74% owned or planned to buy an Apple iPad within the next six months. Ninety-six percent said they saw benefits to attending meetings, conferences and CME events virtually.

Nearly 76% said they believe the number of virtual CME events is increasing. Companies that offer virtual CME courses have seen an increase in participation.

While ON24 and MedData Group are in the business of providing tools to enable online CME, others have documented that the demand for such services is growing. Participation in Internet CME activities has increased steadily during the past five years, said Marissa Seligman, president of the National Assn. of Medical Education Companies. Forty percent of CME activities were online as of 2010, the latest information available, according to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. The ACCME said archived online courses were by far the most popular, with the equivalent of 4.6 million physician participants.

Seligman said use of smartphones and mobile devices is changing the way physicians pursue continuing education.

Boston-based Pri-Med, the medical education company where Seligman is chief clinical and regulatory affairs and compliance officer, published a white paper in 2011 that looked at ways technology is changing postgraduate, professional medical education.

“According to the white paper, the portrait of the physician learner has changed dramatically,” Seligman said. “Physicians who graduated from medical school within the last decade are accustomed to using technology in their personal lives and also in their work to, for instance, communicate with patients and colleagues, to prescribe medications and order tests. Increasingly, physicians are expecting the same types of experiences to enhance the continual learning they must pursue during their postgraduate medical education years.”

When respondents of the ON24 survey were asked what characteristics are important in a virtual event, 61% said a non-nasally, clear-voiced presenter; 42% said funny, entertaining presentations; and 36% said a fast-paced delivery.

By offering more programs online, 96% said they would be able to attend more conferences, meetings and CME events.

“These results demonstrate that virtual communication is becoming very important to the way doctors prefer to work,” said Sharat Sharan, CEO of ON24. “In today’s digital age, medical professionals increasingly prefer virtual events and webcasts wherever they are — at their desks, on their laptops or with any mobile device — over traveling to in-person events.”

Several medical schools and organizations, including the American Medical Association, offer CME courses online. Many are offered at no charge to physicians.

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External links

American Medical Association resources on continuing medical education (link)

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