Lifelong learning

The future of CME: Interactive, online and on-demand

Continuing medical education is evolving to address physicians’ varying learning styles.


You’re at the dining room table participating in a live continuing medical education (CME) webcast on a new surgical technique. After going over the basics, the presenting physician directs you to put on a virtual reality headset. Suddenly, you’re immersed in the sights and sounds of the operating room, looking through the surgeon’s eyes as she walks you through the procedure.

That scenario is only somewhat futuristic. Continuing education continues to evolve in both content and delivery, with new potential topics and technologies—including virtual reality—on the horizon. Here’s a closer look.

Finding a focus

In 2017, major CME topics will include diabetes, cardiovascular risk, obesity, vaccinations for teens and adults, respiratory diseases, dermatologic disorders, osteoporosis, sleep disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. That’s according to the AOA’s Walter Wachel, who helps develop CME offerings in his role as assistant director for industry relations and project management.

“There are two main elements that drive our CME programming,” Wachel explains. “First, we conduct an annual survey to learn which topics most interest our members and pursue funding in those areas. We also offer CME in areas where education gaps have been identified.”

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For example, the Centers for Disease Control has noted that HPV vaccinations remain low among adolescent girls and boys, so the AOA offers CME for primary care physicians on how to educate young patients and their families about the vaccine.

CME delivery

“There isn’t one preferred medium for continuing medical education, because different people learn in different ways,” says Lyerka Miller, PhD. Dr. Miller oversees Miller Medical Communications, a company that develops CME programming for the AOA and other health groups.

In recent years, she’s seen increased interest in online CME offerings, whether the format is an interactive webcast or a recorded presentation. “Online learning speaks to the on-demand world we live in and video can be really impactful,” Dr. Miller says. “But text-based CME, whether online or in print, remains popular because reading is part of physicians’ DNA. It fits into a learning modality that’s present throughout their training.”

Although Dr. Miller anticipates that there will always be a market for multiple CME formats, she predicts that the proportion of learners who prefer each type may shift. For example, with medical education increasingly moving toward interactive online learning, future DOs may be even more enthused about online CME than today’s physicians.

And while virtual reality could shake up the CME world, Dr. Miller doesn’t think the technology is quite ready for prime-time. But if it becomes more accessible, virtual reality could be a powerful new way to share medical knowledge.

Jay Shubrook, DO

Jay Shubrook, DO, has helped create text- and webcast-based CME on diabetes for the AOA and hopes to see more case-based scenarios incorporated.

“Case-based learning gives you branching points so you can see how each treatment decision would play out, and you can treat the “patient” until you get it right. That’s a very valuable way for clinicians to learn,” says Dr. Shubrook, a professor of primary care at the Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine (TUCOM) in Vallejo.


  1. Bill Carnett

    Bravo! This is an area where the AOA should be on the “bleeding edge.” The days of schlepping off to a medical meeting are over. Online, whether real time or on demand is the way to go.

    Living in the far west has made obtaining 1A CME very challenging and expensive. As I approach the end, so to speak, it is particularly difficult to justify such expenses. The recent increased AOA flexibility has allowed me to remain a member. My guess is that these changes are appreciated by many.

  2. Pingback: Different Learning Styles and Options for Continuing Medical Education

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