In today’s playing field of certified medical education (CME) there is constant scrutiny from government and media stakeholders who believe that there is inherent bias in CME activities funded by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. In order to combat perceived bias many have suggested that commercial support of CME be eliminated, however others believe that commercial support is the only way to ensure high quality education is available to all physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals.
Recent discussions with the CME departments of pharmaceutical and medical device companies have concluded that they want to fund high quality CME programs and believe that multi-supported CME programs are one way to reduce commercial bias. Multi-supported CME presents numerous opportunities for bringing high quality effective CME programs to healthcare professionals across the US. CME funding from multiple commercial sources reduces the perception of bias since the education is now supported by the industry and not just for the agenda of one commercial source. Seeking the support from multiple funders allows for the development of more innovative and bigger educational initiatives that have the capability of engaging a larger audience. The development of multi-supported CME also benefits the commercial funder by allowing them to express their commitment to effective CME as well as the opportunity to stretch the budget (the dollar goes a lot further when you don’t have to fund entire CME initiatives).
While multi-supported CME activities seem like a win-win situation for all involved parties, there still exist several challenges that must be overcome. There lacks a standardized educational grant proposal submission process among the commercial supporters which lends to time consuming labor for the CME providers entering the same grant proposal into several different templates. Many times providers also face challenges with the grant approval timelines of the commercial supporters. One funder may make their decisions regarding CME activities within 30 days of receipt, while others may only review grant requests on a quarterly or bi-yearly basis. The scope of the educational activity is also in jeopardy if funding is only received from a proportion of the commercial supporters in which funding has been sought. Several commercial supporters have indicated that they would like to see detailed contingency plans in the initial grant proposal on how the scope of the educational program will change if full funding is not received. Others have also said that if full funding is not received they may be in a position to further financially support more of the CME program and that open communication between the funder and provider are welcomed.
There is no easy way for CME to avoid public scrutiny regarding the perceived bias of quality education available for healthcare professionals. One path to progress is with the implementation of high quality CME programs funded by multiple commercial supporters. While challenges exist in all areas of CME, delivery of scalable programs that can deliver quality CME programs at several different funding levels may be the key to reducing perceived commercial bias.
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