How To Make The Most Of Your CME Funds?

The American Association of Continuing Medical Education states CME as “Educational activities that serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills and professional performance and relationships that a physician [or health professional] uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession.”

The content of CME is the body of knowledge and skills which covers the areas of basic medical education, clinical medicine, and provision of healthcare services to the members of the public. 

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities provide a continuing medical allowance to their full-time physicians to keep abreast of all the clinical and medical developments in the medical field and keep up with the CME requirements of their medical degree. 

Only the courses or educational activities that serve a good purpose in the upgradation of the medical career may fall under CME. For instance, courses in educational methodology and management might fall under CME but not personal financial planning or literature.

It must also be noted that CME activities are not just a year-long endeavor but a continuing process of expanding your medical knowledge and improving your professional development. 

What Are CME Credits?

CME credits are those you can earn from your educational endeavors in the medical and clinical fields. State and private medical hospitals set standards for the number of CME credits a physician has to earn annually to maintain licensure and practice at a particular healthcare facility. CME applies to doctors, nurses, specialists, and other eligible practitioners to continue their practice at a particular medical facility or retain their medical licenses.

Agencies that award the CMEs

S.No

Name of the Agency

Categories of medical professionals

1
Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME)
MDs and DOs.

2American Nurses Credentialing Center

Nurses

3American Association of Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioners

4American Urologists Association

Urologists

5American Society of Clinical Oncologists

Clinical Oncologists

How Do CME Allotments Work?

Many employers who hire full-time physicians offer a yearly CME allotment, in which they reimburse (or directly pay for) CME activities and other expenses necessary for your ongoing professional education.

Most CME allotments for doctors range from around $2000 to $7000 per day and can be used for CME course/activity registration fees and travel expenses to attend the course if it’s in person. Some employers will also reimburse other education-related expenses, such as textbooks, subscriptions, and professional association membership fees. 

A survey by Sullivan, Cotter, and Associates revealed that the average CME allowance for doctors ranged between US$ 3,500 to US$ 5,000. Physicians who get a CME allowance can upskill their medical skills without paying for the education out of their pockets. These will include learning personal financial planning, literature or music, etc.

Benefits of CME for Doctors and Healthcare Institutions

  • Meeting educational requirements: Allows doctors and clinicians to earn CME credits for free to meet the requirements of the State Medical Boards and other specific CME requirements.
  • Excellent training materials: Even if you as a physician are not required to meet the annual CME requirements, use the CME to upskill and improve your knowledge of the latest advancements in the medical field and receive free training. It is an excellent resource to expand your knowledge around specific specialties and subjects. The Continuing Medical Education and Maintenance of Certification requirements ensure that physicians are held accountable for the skills and knowledge that will enable them to be better physicians and improve patient outcomes. 
  • Receiving other side benefits: Sometimes, when you enroll for a CMR course online, you also get a gift card. (Apple Gift cards, Visa, Amazon, or other gift cards.) Prepaid cards are given, which could be up to US$ 2,500 each. 
  • Best healthcare organization in the country: For hospitals and healthcare organizations, CME allowances are a value-based payment that ensures that doctors are the best trained, most up-to-date, and knowledgeable providers available to the hospital. The hospital reaps the rewards by ensuring the best patient care in the country.
  • Motivated physicians and doctors: Instead of having a group of disenfranchised and burnt-out physicians, when clinicians and doctors are sent to conferences to enhance their knowledge base, they will imbibe the latest developments in the medical field and keep the flag of your institution flying high.
  • Reduce employee turnover: Healthcare organizations that support their clinicians and doctors by providing CME allowances enjoy happier and more productive healthcare workers. This results in higher engagement rates and lower turnover, building patient-doctor relationships and better treatment options. 
  • Reduce malpractice suits and increase the hospital’s ROI: Ensuring the right diagnosis and treatment options reduces malpractice suits and legal litigation resulting from poorly trained physicians. This has the potential to save the hospital millions of dollars. 

How Can You Use Your CME Benefits?

Remember, CME benefits are not created equal for all categories of medical professionals. It depends on where you rank in the medical hierarchy. You can pursue your CME by attending seminars, travel conferences, on-demand online courses, and webinars. You can also proctor your courses or produce self-education courses in medicine, which other medical practitioners can use. Your self-produced courses must receive formal accreditation from the appropriate agency listed above. 

The CME courses also consist of elective and prescribed courses. Prescribed courses focus on clinical and patient-focused related topics, which must be completed. There are fewer credits in elective credits, and the arrangement is more flexible. They also require submitted documentation to the prescribed authorities.

Criticism of The Current Level of CME Allowances

One of the criticisms of the CME allowance is that the cost of CME itself is going up due to the inflationary pressures in the economy. Still, the CME allowance paid by healthcare organizations has remained stagnant. 

Merritt Hawkins Review of Physician incentives reporting has concluded that the average CME allowance was US$ 3,391 in 2011-12, and the same has been increased to US$ 3,613 in 2016-17. This is a cumulative increase of barely 6.5% over the six years, scarcely an increase of 1% p.a. 

The most significant criticism is that if CME allowances do not meet the rising costs of CME education, it negates any benefits. 

How Can Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Manage Their CME Expenses?

As mentioned earlier, CME spending is the biggest contributor to the training and education expenses of medical/clinical employees of an organization. As they do not have an unlimited budget, hospitals and healthcare institutions have to manage their CME expenses to ensure cost control and that it does not go out of bounds. 

Hospitals must ensure that expenses do not go out of compliance by mapping costs, tracking compliance, and preventing insurance fraud. This needs the establishment of proper technological infrastructure and appropriate systems and tools to ensure the same. 

The standard practice is that healthcare providers collect receipts, invoices, and paper records and enter most expenses in a spreadsheet. They compare the spreadsheet file to the budgets established for the organization and check the variances. 

Since most of the process is manual, it is invariably time-consuming, error-prone, and tedious. Spreadsheets also have limitations in providing complete financial visibility into all CME expenditures and do not help detect frauds, miscalculations, and sometimes even variance analysis.

Here Are Some Suggested Measures That Might Be A Remedy To Most of the Above Management Challenges:

  • The first step is to set up an expense management solution. This will help approve or reject expenses, allocate expenses, and check variances. All of the above ensures compliance.
  • Draft a clear-cut, concise expense policy for the organization. There should be a balanced policy to reduce fraud and overspending at their very source. An organization must clearly define legitimate CME expenses and how employees must apply for reimbursement. This helps to avoid confusion and mistakes.
  • The guidelines for reimbursement for books, educational materials, online courses, and tuition fees for online CMR classes. There should be a separate section for travel expenses for out-of-state seminars and conferences and whether the reimbursement covers spousal expenses.
  • You can configure the expense management software according to the following: —-
    • Preferred Vendors
    • Expense limits 
    • Per Diem expenses
    • Mileage expenses
    • Approval hierarchies
  • The claimant of expenses is notified about the expense limits and allowed approval of expenses within limits. The employees must clearly understand the rules and policy guidelines that curtail overspending. 
  • Organizations should facilitate expense reporting effectively. Healthcare physicians are busy people with many demands on their time. They should ensure that physicians can report expenses as they occur to avoid a problem. Using mobile apps to automatically uploaded the expense management software, including automatic deciphering of card expenses, will be the best option. The software will also produce reports for analysis by the finance team.
  • Healthcare organizations should enhance compliance and control. Manual expenses increase the potential for fraudulent claims as spreadsheets can be overwritten or altered easily. Validating, detecting, and proving fraud is costly due to high processing costs. Expense management software automatically prevents the occurrence of such events. Duplicate receipts and out-of-policy reimbursement claims can be easily detected and stopped. In addition, GPS-supported tracking software also helps to track accurate mileage. Customized, multi-level approval workflow hierarchies also help in preserving additional control.
  • Create and accurately allocate cash flows for CME expenses. There is potential for budgets to be exceeded or underspent. If budgets are accurately forecasted, there is no room for errors. Finance teams can monitor employee-level budgets and inform the employees when they are going above budgeted expenses. 

How to Plan Your CME Package For The Year?

Put in some effort each year to plan what you want in terms of continuing education, paying attention to deals and special offers. Doing so can make your CME fund go a long way. Everyone can find some CME offer that meets their continuing education needs and also fits their budgets. Some of the offers from different entities are outlined below for you to choose from.  

I :CME materials with gift card options

BoardVitals Pro Plus Bundle course: This is a world-class Board prep and CME preparatory course. The course provides up to 100 hours of AMA preparatory category one credits and gift cards of up to Rs. 3,000 using Amazon or Visa Prepaid cards. 

One such attractive offer is the BoardVitals Pro Plus Bundle course. A comprehensive pro bundle plus course covers thirty specialties and offers physicians 100 AMA PRA Category 1 credits. In addition, physicians get US$ 3,000 gift cards plus a 2-year subscription offer. The course also offers a build-your-own, customized course feature so that you can structure your course within the limits of your CME allowance. This is the “choose your price tool.” Another online platform, MDCalc, has also built a customizable budget tool on their platform. The customization applies to the course length, gift card, and budget. The gift card amount varies according to the CME budget chosen. 

The course curriculum is also constantly updated so that physicians learn the most up-to-date medical and clinical research developments. The explanations and questions are updated using cloud technology so that you get all material online in real-time. 

As the course is online, you can easily do the course from the comfort of your own home on a device, i.e., mobile, tablet, laptop, or computer with which you are comfortable. Some of the Board Vital courses available include:-

  • The BoardVitals Psychiatry CME 
  • The BoardVitals Anesthesiology CME
  • The BoardVitals Radiology CME
  • The BoardVitals Emergency medicine CME

Oakland Practical Reviews and CME Insider Info: 

This course provides practically unlimited AMA PRA Category 1 CME credits.

Gift card offers: US$ 1,500, US$ 2,000, and US$ 2,500.

Pricing: The CME insider Info comes with a gift card offer of US$ 3,000, and the Practical Reviews comes with a gift card offer of US$ 500. Practical Reviews has both a 12-month and a 24-month offer. Both options come with a gift card worth US$ 500. 

The 12-month offer is available at US$ 599, and the 24-month offer comes at US$ 1,998. The CME insider Offer is priced at US$ 1,999 with a US$ 1,000 Amazon gift card. The 24-month offer is priced at US$ 2,999 with a US$ 1,500 Amazon gift card, and the 36-month offer comes at US$ 5,449 with a US$ 3,000 Amazon gift card. 

Educational Material: With some of the best-curated content, the Oakland CME study material consists of exclusive videos, up-to-date content in every specialty, and the potential to earn unlimited credits.   

The Osler Institute: This institute provides live CME training in more than 20 specialties, including Radiology, Pediatrics, Neurology, Family Medicine, etc. There are more than 50 live courses in cities like Dallas, Chicago, and St.Louis. Online versions of such courses are also available.

Hospital Procedure Consultants offer live courses in cities like Chicago, Seattle, Long Beach, and Washington, D.C. They offer comprehensive CME courses on emergency and hospital healthcare procedures with the help of highly skilled instructors. Also, the courses involve rigorous training and constant evaluations to monitor your progress.

Continuing Education Company: With conferences priced between US$ 650 to US% 750, they offer seminars and conferences at popular tourist resorts like Hawaii or Florida. Access to the conference, morning breakfast and a mid-morning coffee with a printed syllabus are covered under the fees. Travel costs and hotel stays have to be covered on your own.

American Seminar Institute will ship CME educational materials to wherever you are at any given point in time. With course costs at US$ 445- US$ 540, this provides you with a flexible, on-demand way of earning CME credits. Of course, any accommodation and travel costs are not covered. 

You have to plan your CME courses in such a way that you prepare them around your day-to-day tasks and doesn’t interfere with your daily routine.

II : Use CME allowances to buy Ipad and mobile phone apps

If you work as a CME materials provider, speak at a conference, or otherwise buy CME online materials, you can use your CME allowance to buy certain point-of-care medical apps. Sometimes CME gift card options come with an offer of a free tablet. 

Getting an iPad and a gift card is a practical, additional incentive. Getting such an app will be helpful and help convince your financial controller that such a perk is more practical and valuable in your hospital work. 

III : Discounts and seasonal CME sales

As the number of CME materials providers increases, there is a lot of competition among them to capture market share. This may include anything from exclusive discounts, incentives, referral awards through various affiliate partnerships, discount offers on multiple subscriptions, reviews, and perspectives. 

IV: Get a free trial before settling for a particular CME offer

Many programs offer money-back guarantees if you are not satisfied with the quality of the offers. 

V: Speak at CME conferences

When you speak at a particular session at the CMER conference, you get your conference fees covered, and you can sometimes even get your hotel stay, airfare, and other incidentals covered.

VI: Researching and writing CME materials

If you are:

  • Someone who loves researching.
  • Writing and teaching others about your areas of clinical expertise.
  • Writing study materials for the CME courses is the way forward.

You are an excellent source for providing reference materials as a specialist or a clinician. You may qualify only for CME Category 2 credits, but you may check that with your licensing body. Some companies looking for qualified contributors include Hippo Education, Med Challenger, Core Content Review of Family medicine, and STAT Pearls, among others. 

VII: Using your CME fund for technology

Buying devices that help with point of care is an excellent justification for hospital administrations and a way to either keep up with your CME Courses or write your CME material. 

Some organizations offer incentives such as electronic devices such as an iPad or MacBook with the purchase of their CME activity. CME4Life offers buyers a complimentary Apple Watch, iPad, or Microsoft Surface to purchase their CME package.

Key Takeaways

Continuing Medical Education is a great way to ensure your career progress up the medical hierarchy. It will also make you a subject matter expert, especially in your field. There are many ways that you can innovatively plan your CME so that you maximize the use of the allowance. 

Creating your CME materials, getting certified by the Board, and delivering lectures at seminars and conferences will not be a way to highlight your skills. Still, you will also be able to use the CME expenses to buy the latest technological devices and upgrade your skills. Do not forget to examine the different CME courses offered by different organizations and capitalize on them to derive maximum benefit.

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