An Introduction to Online CME
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Taking CME courses online doesn’t require fancy computer equipment, just some spare time and a comfortable chair.
Fam Pract Manag. 2003 Mar;10(3):59-60.
During the past few years, a new way to earn CME credit has emerged: online CME courses. Obtaining CME through the World Wide Web has some distinct advantages over the more traditional methods available. It is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from the comfort of your home or office. You can view courses at your own speed, stopping and starting as you like, going back to view or listen as often as you wish. Currently more than 11,000 online courses offer more than 19,000 hours of CME. And online CME is extremely affordable; many courses are free or cost only $5 to $15 per credit hour. Several formats are available:
The simplest form of online CME is “text only.” Courses generally involve reading articles and answering questions. No special software is required; just a computer, a printer and Internet access. “Current Controversies in Hormone Replacement Therapy” (https://cme.health.pitt.edu/hrt_index.asp) is an example of a text-only online CME course. To earn credit, you will be required to read several articles about hormone replacement therapy and answer questions about what you’ve read. There is no fee, and you’ll receive one hour of Category 1 credit toward the AMA Physician Recognition Award (PRA) as well as a certificate of credit, which you should print and save for your records.
Many online CME courses feature audio lectures with slides. To hear the lectures, you’ll need to have speakers for your computer. To view the slides, you will need either RealOne Player or Windows Media Player. You may already have these programs installed on your computer; if not, you can download them without charge by going to www.real.com or www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/download/default.asp.
The Texas AFP’s InterNetCME (www.tafp.org/internetcme/preview.htm) offers a variety of slide/video lectures for family physicians. Lecture topics include myocardial infarction, ethics and end-of-life care, medico-legal issues, pediatric asthma, treatment of depression and sexual side effects, obstetrics and diabetes, among others. FamilyPractice.com also offers a wide variety of slide/lecture courses, some with simulated patient interviews. I recommend “Real-Life Experiences in Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” (www.familypractice.com/lectures/lecture_hall/lecture_intro_frame.htm), which offers two hours of Category 1 AMA PRA credit. The AAFP is another good resource for earning CME credit online (www.aafp.org/videocme). Courses can be viewed without charge, but you must pay a nominal fee to submit for CME credit. I suggest “Management of COPD: An Update” (www.aafp.org/videocme/copd/update/index.html).
Case-based interactive instruction is a growing trend in online CME. Generally, you are presented with a clinical scenario and are asked to make choices about history, examination, lab testing and treatment before continuing to the next step. “Clinical Decisions Cases” (www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/decisionmaking/intro.htm), from the Cleveland Clinic, is a good example of this kind of instruction. Each course carries one free hour of Category 1 AMA PRA credit.
Another case-based interactive site is the Bioterrorism Practical Readiness Network (http://bioprn.advancepcsmdnet.com/). It offers courses on eight diseases including anthrax, smallpox and viral hemorrhagic fever. After a didactic presentation, you are given three case simulations where you will be asked to “examine” each patient and then take a brief quiz. You can earn 1.5 hours of Category 1 AMA PRA credit for studying each disease.
If you like to learn by taking quizzes, visit the American Board of Family Practice In-Training Exam (www.abfp.org). While these questions are intended mainly for family practice residents, you will find the level of difficulty high enough to stimulate you. This site contains 1,100 brief multiple-choice questions and answers (with accompanying explanations), allowing you to earn 0.25 hours of free AAFP Prescribed credit for every 10 questions answered (up to a total of 27.5 hours). A similar site offering more extensive discussion of the answers is eCore - The Core Content Review of Primary Care (www.vlh.com/shared/courses/course_info.cfm?courseno=20). One hour of AAFP Prescribed credit can be earned for every 10 questions answered correctly. The cost is $10 per hour.
If you are interested in cardiology, visit CardioVillage (www.cardiovillage.com). You can log in as a cardiologist or as a primary care doctor and the program will adjust the level of difficulty for you. The site is highly interactive and makes excellent use of graphics and animation. Up to 80 hours of free Category 1 AMA PRA credit can be earned.
A smorgasbord of CME
This article provides only a fraction of the online CME resources available. To see more courses specifically for family doctors, visit my Web site, the Annotated List of Online CME, at www.cmelist.com/family_practice.htm. This site also provides information regarding the entire range of accredited online CME for all specialties.
Dr. Sklar practiced clinical medicine for 29 years before turning to medical informatics in 1997. He continuously monitors online CME offerings and maintains a current listing of all accredited online CME courses.
Conflicts of interest: none reported.
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