E-Learning

Continuing Ed for Doctors Moving Online

Commercially produced materials presented online have begun to take an increasingly important role in continuing education for physicians. If current trends in the use of online education continue, according to the authors of a new study on the topic, half of continuing medical ed used by physicians will be delivered via online means within seven to 10 years--a dramatic increase over the 7 percent to 9 percent delivered that way in 2008.

The new study, titled "The growth, characteristics, and future of online CME," was published in the winter 2010 issue of the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions.

Currently, according to the study's authors, continuing education for doctors is primarily delivered via in-person meetings and conferences and is prepared by academic centers and professional societies. In contrast, most online continuing education courses are produced by medical publishing and education companies--and delivered to physicians for free or at a very low cost--typically at a cost of $10 or less per credit. Most of it consists of text and recordings of live lectures.

"These findings are very provocative," said John Harris, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the study's lead author. Harris is also the president of Medical Directions, a Tucson-based company that develops, sells, and consults on online health profession education. Three of the four authors for the study are employed by Medical Directions.

"We know that lots of health professionals are using the Internet for on-going education. We also know that the tried and true approaches, such as live meetings, are still quite popular," said Harris. "But these analyses, which are based on 11 years of data, show that the growth rate for online CME is well established and exponential. We can expect far more changes in how [continuing education] is developed, distributed, and probably paid for in the next 10 years than we have seen in the past 30."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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