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Trends Shaping the Medical Continuing Education Space

Physicians have specific needs that only sector-specific Continuing Education can meet. However, Medical Continuing Education must understand needed skills, address social issues and engage learners.

As people become more comfortable in an asynchronous and synchronous environment, it’s time to establish a more common norm of education moving forward. Understanding learner and employer needs will best support those in the medical field. In this interview, Gregg Bereznick discusses the biggest trends shaping the medical education field, creating a dynamic change in the industry and providing a quality experience.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): What are the biggest trends shaping the Continuing Medical Education space?

Gregg Bereznick (GB): People are beginning to look for a pre-pandemic experience. We’re past exclusive virtual learning, and people are wanting to experience the way things were before. Yes, there is an acceptance of asynchronous and synchronous learning because of its viability, but the preference is the opportunity to experience learning with colleagues in person.

We have to be careful not to lean into virtual learning exclusively because people like options. We need to try to differentiate and accommodate different audiences, which has become another major trend in marketing. There is also a growing trend to provide learning that addresses what people need clinically while addressing social accountability.

For example, AI started off as a novelty and is now impacting practice. It is an area that people are beginning to learn and navigate as it emerges in everyday life. There’s also growing interest in professionalism, since our changing world requires people to be aware of their behaviors. As always, there is the challenge of differentiating between perceived needs and required needs regarding these topics.

Evo: What responsibility Continuing Medical Education providers have to move the profession forward? And how do you balance the need to create dynamic change within the industry against the need to ensure people keep up with their licensure?

GB: It comes back to understanding social issues and their impact on professional practice. Ensuring you understand this context and how to treat a patient is critical. For example, we’re developing learning focused on Indigenous needs. There is a layer of care that maybe wasn’t thought of before or, in some cases, disregarded but that is required to truly be a professional physician in this day and age.

The idea of professionalism is becoming an area of extreme interest rather than just a consideration. People are realizing that the world is incredibly complicated and that we must broaden our lens to understand what we need to do and how to do it. It’s refreshing for Continuing Medical Education to address these issues, and we have a stronger moral obligation to provide learning that was absent in the past.

Evo: From a programming perspective, how do you balance ensuring Western medical educators are up to date while creating opportunities for upskilling and reskilling?

GB: From a faculty development perspective, some medical schools can do too much, and faculty are extremely busy. So, we have modulated toward bite-sized information that provides exactly what is needed to address to meet learning requirements. The rule with faculty development is to keep it simple.

Regarding Continuing Medical Education, with the changing nature of society, we have to look deeper rather than assuming we have what we need. Rather than relying on past practice, activities need to be based on needs assessments and other data that let us know exactly what we should be doing. Once we clarify that, we can direct our efforts much more strategically. There used to be a lot of guesswork, but now we have a model that allows us to effectively balance faculty development requirements with CME.

Evo: How are you managing a multi-generation workforce with different expectations of what constitutes a quality learning experience?

GB: We have to offer a buffet of opportunities that includes both virtual and in-person learning to meet various schedules and lifestyles and help those new in their careers and managing life requirements, such as raising a young family. However, the challenge with virtual being a viable option, specifically with asynchronous activities, is that you have to make a two-dimensional environment seem three-dimensional to engage the learner in the pedagogy. That requires a significant amount of work in terms of educational design.

Virtual instruction will require more craftsmanship. If we commit to focusing on our pedagogy and learning modality, then we’ll produce a product we ca promote. We must address the learner and how we’re going to engage them. If we call ourselves an educational organization, we have to innovate how we interact with learners so they internalize and actualize what they need.

Evo: What are some key differences you see in the practice of CME versus general Continuing Education focused on broad upskilling and reskilling?

GB: Physicians are a specific audience looking for specific skills and knowledge that will help them change their practice. It’s much more pointed and needs a level of truth and clarity that other onboarding may not require. They form a demanding audience who wants to devote available time to get what it needs and move forward. That requires us as CME providers to ensure a high level of quality in content and delivery.

Evo: Is there anything you’d like to add?

GB: Now that we have moved past the pandemic, there is an opportunity to rethink CME and faculty development. We want to take advantage of this moment to move CME forward. This time of change has provided a level of motivation that has become a positive byproduct of the pandemic. In a positive light, it’s an opportunity to improve our practice and harness that needed spirit of change.


This interview was edited for length and clarity.