While spending a recent weekend at a medical conference, listening to lecturers, looking at the research posters, and earning Continuing Medical Education (CME) creditI remembered learning early in medical school that attending educational conferences has only small effects on a doctor’s practice. While the didactic sessions and lectures are often engaging and compelling, when physicians return to their hospitals or clinics on Monday, little changes in the way they manage conditions.

How can we change this?  How can we improve the care of our patients following medical CME courses?

One potential solution can be the automated incorporation of evidence based algorithms into a hospital or clinic based EMR. When the latest evidence-based algorithms are reviewed at medical conferences, doctors can be reminded of their use by having EMR’s “crawl” the note and suggest algorithms that may improve clinical decision making. This can be especially helpful once the ICD-10 coding system is implemented on October 1st, 2015.

Combining medical algorithms utilized within an EMR with CME credit opportunities:

Currently, CME credits (aside from conferences and live lectures) can be obtained by reading certain articles via websites, apps, or through e-mail. One such example is through Doximity which allows users to read articles and claim CME credit for topics related to their field of medicine. Taking CME activities one step further, perhaps credits can one day be obtained by utilizing and reviewing evidence-based algorithms and their accompanying studies as part of a doctor’s normal work day.

For example, while in the clinic, a pediatrician who sees a 4 year-old brought in after falling and hitting her head while running outdoors can be prompted to review the work from the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Network (PECARN) to determine risk for significant head injury. The pediatrician can review the algorithm and use the result as part of their clinical decision making process. At a later time, the physician would be able to review the CME credit opportunities that they are eligible to earn and request credit towards their state requirement.

Obtaining CME credit should not be separate from the practice of medicine, rather, it would be better to incorporate it into the daily tasks that doctors complete every day. Medical conferences are great ways to spend a few days amongst colleagues, learning from experts in the field.  But, other ways to earn CME credit may be better able to ensure the long-term retention of the material presented.