Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses are a key way for medical professionals to upgrade their skills, master the latest research and qualify for promotions and membership in industry organizations. Last year the Preeclampsia Foundation and the University of Minnesota’s Deborah E. Powell Center for Women’s Health joined together to create the first-ever online CME course devoted to preeclampsia prediction, management and outcomes. Now that the first offering of the course is complete, feedback from participants suggests that it could play an important role in improving awareness, diagnosis and treatment.
The CME was divided into three modules: one devoted to diagnosis, a second with the latest treatment and management information, and the third focusing on heart disease prevention in preeclampsia survivors. Physicians Dr. Thomas Easterling, Dr. Michael Katz and Dr. Tanya Melnik conducted the lectures, which were accompanied by online PowerPoint presentations.
When participants were asked to rate the CME, “the evaluations showed overwhelmingly excellent scores,” says Becky Gams, an RN with the University of Minnesota who ran the CME. Seventy-four percent rated the first module as “excellent.” Even more impressive were the comments that participants made when asked what changes they would make to their work as a result of the course. “[I will] monitor my pregnant patients more closely and have a higher suspicion of preeclampsia,” wrote one student. Another said, “Having a better understanding of the pathology and possible predictors will heighten my awareness about potential complications during the preconception and ante-natal time period.” Several wrote that they would encourage patients to manage their weight or hypertension before conception.
J. Thomas Viall, Executive Director of the Preeclampsia Foundation, says it is critical that the Preeclampsia Foundation offer further CME credits through its website. “It reinforces our credibility with both the professional and patient communities,” he says. “The challenge is to do it in a way that is cost effective as well as compelling so as to drive traffic.” Producing the material, administering the CME certification and hosting the website is expensive, and the existing course was made possible through a $10,000 grant from Black River Asset Management. Vicki Nolan, the sister of Preeclampsia Foundation operations director Jamie Nolan, works for Black River and applied for the grant. There is also pressure to improve production values to compete with more lavish CME courses designed by for-profit companies. At the moment, the course is available online for information purposes, but not for credit. “We are currently in consultation with our Medical Advisory Board to develop new CME and professional education opportunities and hope to have a new set of courses available by the end of the year,” says Mr. Viall.