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Study Predicts Half of Physician Continuing Education Will Be Online by 2016

Thursday, March 11, 2010 General News J E 4
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TUCSON, Ariz., March 10 If current trends in the use of online education continue, 50% of continuing medical education (CME) used by physicians will be delivered via the Internet in 2016. This would represent a dramatic increase over the 9% of CME delivered via the Internet in 2008. According to a new study published in the winter, 2010 issue of the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions these changes in how practicing physicians obtain ongoing training could disrupt the multi-billion dollar CME industry in much the same way technological innovations have disrupted other established industries.

Most physician CME today is delivered via live meetings and conferences and is prepared by academic centers and professional societies. The new study finds that, in contrast, most online CME is prepared by commercial education companies. It is also distributed to physicians for free or at a very low cost. The authors observed that the pattern of a new technology being developed outside of mainstream organizations is consistent with what Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen has described as a pattern of "disruptive innovation" that often damages existing organizations while leading to lower prices and higher quality.

"These findings are very provocative," stated Dr. John Harris Jr., President of Medical Directions, Inc., Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Arizona and the study's lead author. "We know that lots of health professionals are using the Internet for ongoing education. We also know that the tried and true approaches, such as live meetings, are still quite popular. 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 CME is developed, distributed, and probably paid for in the next 10 years than we have seen in the past 30."

The key study findings are consistent with broader trends in the use of online technologies in education. A 2009 report from Babson College observed, "Online enrollments have continued to grow at rates far in excess of the total higher education student population..." A 2009 review of 46 published studies by the US Department of Education found, "...on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction."

SOURCE Medical Directions, Inc.
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