The pandemic created new demands on the accredited continuing medical education (CME) community. Facing economic, resource, and personal challenges, educators had to cancel or repurpose in-person learning, and design and deliver effective online education. This short report analyzes the effect of this pandemic on CME in the United States.
Organizations accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education are required to submit detailed data about their educational programs annually. This report compares 2019 and 2020 data sets to evaluate pandemic-related changes in the availability, formats, and participation in CME.
After years of comparative stability, 2020 saw significant shifts in CME. Compared with 2019, the number of accredited organizations, activities, hours of instruction, and revenue declined in 2020. In contrast, engagement in CME by physicians and other health care professionals increased to the record levels. Virtual learning formats predominated. Almost half of accredited organizations delivered activities addressing pandemic-related topics, mostly in online formats.
Educators anticipate continuing to offer activities in online and hybrid formats. This transformation presents new challenges and opportunities for CME. It is important that institutional leaders appropriately resource CME staff and faculty to design and deliver education targeting ongoing pandemic-related issues such as vaccine hesitancy, medical misinformation, and clinician burnout.