CHANGES IN MEDICAL EDUCATION ACCREDITATION
The continuing medical education (CME) industry is going through significant change under the lead of the Accreditation Council of Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). These changes are bringing about a paradigm shift in physician learning.
Surprisingly, this shift has created an unexpected opening for medical writers who are interested in entering the CME medical writing field specifically. Previously, writers found it very difficult to break into this highly specialized field. CME providers creating CME content chose to hire writers whom they knew had done such work previously, and who understood the then long-standing requirements and regulations first hand. There were few opportunities for formal CME medical writing training, so besides on the job training at the side of another CME professional, writers eager to enter CME were in a circular bind. They needed to have experience in CME medical writing, but couldn’t get it because they were inexperienced.
Fortunately, as a result of the shake up in CME, even experienced writers are finding they need to learn new skills. The changes have been that fundamental! If you are interested in entering the field, the playing field itself is now as level as it will ever be. The demand for CME content is higher with the new requirements, and all medical writers (experienced and new) have a chance not only to write CME, but to stand apart from professionals who have been in the industry for years.
THE ECONOMY AND MEDICAL WRITING TRAINING
The recent worldwide recession has also created an unexpected boon for aspiring CME medical writers.
Along with many economic sectors, the recession has affected most freelance medical writers. I am good friends with someone who writes consumer health and patient education articles. She recently shared that her business has decreased forty percent. Like a lot of us, she chose the freelance/entrepreneurial route over steady employment so that she could be her own boss and have more control over her time and the type of work she does. Now, she’s lucky to get enough new work to cover basic expenses. She spends her day combing the Internet, sending out her CV, reaching out to contacts, and making cold-calls to strangers. Sound familiar? When we discussed what ELSE she is doing about it, she said, “Until things turn around, I might as well use this time to learn statistics, so I can finally tell the difference between a risk ratio and an odds ratio instead of faking it.”
Using the slowdown in the market to learn another skill is a great opportunity, and many writers are taking advantage of this time. For example, in 2009, the American Medical Writer’s Association offered over 100 educational sessions during their 3-day annual conference so members could “…gain new areas of expertise that enhance their skills in the many facets of medical communication.” In addition, friends of mine who teach medical writing have blogs that have gotten record numbers of hits. The interest and demand are there.
WEB TECHNOLOGY AND THE ONLINE MEDICAL WRITING COURSE
Finally, the largest trend in physician education is the move from learning in situ at meetings and conferences, to learning over the internet at the physician’s time and convenience. This trend is expected to increase.
“Interactive education, just-in-time learning, and increased opportunities for self-directed learning are among the future trends in CME”, according to Patrick Alguire, MD, director of the American College of Physicians department of education and career development. (AAOS Now, March, 2010)
“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.” (The Medical News, March 11, 2010)
The same trend to offer online medical writing courses via the internet is reflective of what is happening in physician education, and should be happening so that CME medical writing training stays current with the latest technology. In online medical writing training, we can now offer content in multiple media (written, audio, and video), in an interactive format (allowing interaction between student and teacher), and at the convenience of the student (24 hours/day x 7 days/week x 365 days/year.)
In the online medical writing course I offer, “CME Training for Medical Writers,” we focus on the skills needed to participate in the lucrative and continually changing market for continuing physician education. Students participate, literally, from around the world, as the evolving US model is the world standard for CME.
To the points I have made above, I find out why students are motivated to take the course when they enroll. Some have been successful writers for regulatory or clinical trial content, who desire a greater sense of mission. Others are starting out and want to learn CME medical writing. The vast majority however are trained medical writers with years of experience who want to add to their repertoire, become more marketable, and enjoy the most lucrative form of medical writing – CME medical writing.
Plus, the online format draws rave reviews for its worldwide availability 24 x 7 x 365. Most students are busy with other business endeavors, and appreciate the convenience and relatively self-paced pace of the learning.
The combination of ACCME new standards, the recent worldwide economic slowdown, and the evolution of web technology in learning have combined to create new opportunities in medical writing, and there is a bright future ahead for those who become proficient in the benefits of creating content for Continuing Medical Education.