To describe a long-term overview of accredited continuing medical education (CME) at M.D.-granting medical schools in the United States.
Self-reported data about type, duration, and numbers of learner participants of accredited CME activities and income for CME units from each medical school were compiled annually by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) between 1998 and 2017. Comparisons were made with data from all other ACCME-accredited organizations.
Between 1998 and 2017, medical schools represented 18%–19% of all ACCME-accredited organizations. CME activities, hours of instruction, learner participants, and income increased gradually until reaching the highest levels between 2008 and 2011 before remaining constant. In 2017, each school generated a median of 132 activities (interquartile range [IQR]: 66–266), of which 44% were courses and 31% were regularly scheduled series (RSS), and a median of 29,824 learner interactions (IQR: 8,464–46,255). Total income rose gradually until 2010 before declining. In 2017, each school reported a median annual income of $1.0 million (IQR: $0.2 million – $2.9 million) from CME activities, comprising 44% from registration fees, 39% from commercial support, and 14% from advertising and exhibits. Compared with other accredited organization types, medical schools generally developed more RSS activities and proportionally fewer interprofessional and online activities.
While medical schools represent less than 20% of all ACCME-accredited organizations, their role is pivotal and their influence far-reaching. For medical schools to fulfill their responsibility as education leaders, they need to prioritize support for CME offices and faculty development and implement new approaches to teaching and learning.