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Are CMEs Needlessly Driving Up The Cost of Healthcare??


Wasting Money

It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or a patient, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, I don’t believe anyone wants to see more waste in the healthcare system.

What’s one way to reduce waste in the healthcare system? Better learning design.

Different states have different requirements for doctors, but the general principle at play will be similar across the country. We’ll use Washington state as an example simply because that’s where I live.

Every two years, doctors in Washington state are required to accrue at least 80 continuing medical education (CME) credits in order to renew their licenses, an average of 40 credits per year.

In theory, continuing professional development opportunities ensure our doctors stay on the cutting edge of medicine and science. But in practice, the return on investment for CMEs can be dubious. In most sessions, you’ll find a very smart person in the front of the room talking about something, and you’ll find 500 other very smart, busy people in the room catching up on their email.

In the book Make It Stick, Douglas Larsen from the Washington University Medical School observes this about medical conferences and seminars:

“The speaker puts the PowerPoint slideshow up and starts going through it. Usually there’s lunch, and the docs eat, listen and leave.

“In my mind, considering how much forgetting occurs, it’s very discouraging that we’re putting so many resources into an activity that, the way it is currently done, learning research tells us is so ineffective…

“They have these big conferences, they have all the faculty come through and give their talks. And in the end, what we actually accomplish is really kind of minimal.”

Should the medical community abandon the idea of required CMEs because, in general, the educational experiences are ineffective? No.

Should the medical community take more responsibility in ensuring these learning experiences produce results? Absolutely.

Will more effective medical education put a stop to the 15% annual rise on healthcare premiums? Probably not.

Will more effective medical education help reduce errors, improve skills and perhaps save a life (maybe even yours or mine)? Probably.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how $75 billion (yes, with a “b”) is wasted annually around the world on training efforts across sectors. So why am I picking on the medical profession today? Because this is one sector where the cost of a poor learning experience can literally make the difference between life and death. And because practitioners in this field are generally more ego-driven than results-driven when it comes to their willingness to change their instructional methods.

So what’s the cure to this plague of poor educational design – in the medical profession or any other arena? One simple antidote is just better design, and a basic tool such as a presentation plan can help in this area.

Design without a cursory understanding of how people learn is only a Band-Aid solution. Two easy-to-read sources of the latest in brain research and effective learning experiences would be the works of Will Thalheimer and Art Kohn.

Brain science. Effective learning design. When it comes to reducing waste in the healthcare system, this might be just what the doctor ordered.

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