August 1998 Bulletin

CME courses get new spin

Learning from industry how to treat patients as customers

Open a continuing medical education catalog these days and courses titled "Optimizing Orthopaedic Communication on the Internet," and "Medical Marriages in the 1990s" are likely to be listed along with the surgical skill courses that have dominated continuing medical education for decades.

Add in the variety of courses now offered to help physicians manage the business aspects of their practice, deal with managed care and sort out the options for buying, selling and merging practices and continuing medical education (CME) takes on a whole new spin.

Be it at the Academy's Annual Meeting, the Summer Institute or at Academy CME courses throughout the year, it's not just about surgery anymore.

"CME is no longer just learning about orthopaedic surgery, the problems and how to treat them," said Joseph Zuckerman, MD. "Some of these issues and courses aren't necessarily even medical anymore."

Dr. Zuckerman is a member of the Academy's Council on Education, chairman of the Surgical Skills Education Committee and was co-chairman of the Academy's CME 2000 Task Force. The task force's recommendations are among the factors driving the strategic direction of the Academy's educational programs.

Dr. Zuckerman said many of the changes in CME stem from the recognition that, in the managed care era, orthopaedics as a specialty needs to understand the commercial marketplace.

"This isn't about money but about providing the best product that we can," said Dr. Zuckerman. "For instance learning about the hotel industry can teach us something about how to treat customers and our patients are our customers."

However, he said learning to treat patients as customers and taking cues from the commercial marketplace are concepts many orthopaedic surgeons still have trouble accepting. "There is a huge learning curve for this," he said. "First, you have to accept that it's important, then you have to learn about it. These are not things we are familiar with and comfortable with."

In its report to the Academy Council on Education, the CME 2000 Task Force advocated forming partnerships with a variety of organizations that could help the Academy harvest non-traditional CME courses. One possibility that is being explored, according to Dr. Zuckerman, is a partnership with the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) based in Tampa, Fla. to produce a mini-MBA program for orthopaedic surgeons.

ACPE already offers graduate programs in medical management with Tulane University in New Orleans, The University of Wisconsin in Madison and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

It's too early to predict what the Academy's learning model might look like should the partnership come to fruition, but the full MBA programs include courses on marketing, economics, physician as manager and leader and customer service. They are a mix of on-campus and off-campus formats. The programs take an average of 2 1/2 years to complete.

Even as the Academy works on the mini-MBA concept, Dr. Zuckerman said physicians can expect to be offered more learning options in non-traditional areas of continuing medical education. Classes like "The Medical Marriage," "Keeping Your Life in Balance in the Medical Professions (When Cloning Yourself Won't Work)" and "Life After Orthopaedic Practice: Preparing for a Change in Direction" will continue to be offered to Academy members.

"The need for these types of courses has always been there," Dr. Zuckerman said. "But the need is greater now and we have to respond. If we have outside stresses in our lives that impedes on our practice, we need to be able to deal with them."

For more information on changes in continuing medical education, a report, "Strategic Directions for the Academy's Education Programs," is in the Medical Education section of the Academy's home page The report on a 1997 Board of Directors workshop contains a report on the "Task Force on CME in 2000" and "Report on Adult Learning Principles."

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