Paying for Continuing Medical Education at Your Sleep Center

CME or continuing medical education is a type of continuing education geared at medical professionals looking to stay competitive and enhance their skills and knowledge in this field. It enables professionals to understand the new and upcoming developments in their respective medical field, and use this greater awareness to provide better services to patients. In many US states, CME is required for medical professionals if their want to retain their licenses; for instance, forty hours of continuing medical education every 2 years is the stipulation for medical practitioners in Arizona. 

John Warren, the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, was the first to develop a program for surgeon training back in 1782. This early effort has grown into a full fledged industry today, with continuing medical education seeing greater physician participation and commercial enterprises stepping in to fund CME programs. In the United States, ACCME (Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education) regulates the CME for physicians and medical practitioners.

Who provides CME courses?

CME courses are developed and provided by a number of organizations that include hospitals, universities, nursing and medical schools, professional and accredited associations, and medical education agencies. The learning activities may be formal, such as web-based/DVD content (known as enduring material), PI-CME or Process Improvement CME and live programs, or they can be informal, such as journal clubs or internet point-of-care research.

The support offered by commercial enterprises to fund CME programs has increased dramatically over the years. Back in the late1980’s, academic medical schools and centers received less than 40% of their financial support for CME programs from the industry, but the number has risen to almost 70% in the millennium. This commercial funding has been a source of debate, over allegations that the focus of enterprises is more on marketing and profit-generation by providing physicians with lucrative offers, and less on the learning factor.

Benefits of CME

To keep up with the rapid changes in the medical world, it has become imperative for physicians to be ‘students’ as well as professionals. This is true for any provider in the medical field, including sleep disorder doctors and nurses.

CME courses keep physicians on the pulse of medical advancements and meet different educational needs. For instance, sleep disorder professionals or nurses can attend a CME conference on a topic that they find interesting, review their existing knowledge through an online CME program, or enroll in a home-study continuing medical education program that awards CME credits to stay up to date. CME offers professionals a lot of flexibility in terms of the learning methods they would like to go for.

Case-based or online CME is one learning form besides group-based online discussions, home study, interactive video-conferencing and educational meetings, and other live events. The CME credits offered by the accredited provider could include written, verbal, online and self assessment activities. The credits will be targeted at the sleep center physician’s primary practice areas, and include certain stipulations based on the CME program in question.

Why pay for it?

CME funding is absolutely essential, as continuing medical education is mandatory for physicians in many American states. The very appeal of CME lies in the fact that doctors, unlike other professionals, do not have to fund their continuing education. Though critics have argued that industry financing is a form of subtle marketing than real education, the truth is that industry support is necessary for medical professionals to stay updated on new treatments, drugs, clinical data and devices that they would otherwise not know about, as well as gain much from the interactive learning experience at CME events and conferences. In the same way, paying for CME is a way for a sleep center to invest in better skill development and greater knowledge for staff, the resultant of which is better performance and quality health care for patients.

Most valuable areas of study

There are many important areas of study in the field of sleep medicine on which quality CME courses can throw more light. These include the impact of shift work on sleep, insomnia in nursing home residents and the larger public health issue of sleep depravation. Sleep disorders among the elderly and Alzheimer’s sufferers would also offer new and helpful insights in the modern world. Sleep medicine is one of the lesser researched and served medicinal areas in the country and the world. CME programs offer an opportunity for practicing physicians to refine their skills and re-examine their approach. CME courses on home testing, running sleep centers successfully and caring for younger sleep patients, are also worthwhile.

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