On this episode of our podcast, I spoke with continuing medical education (CME) specialist Jonathan Marx, MBA, about the rapidly changing state of CME in the COVID era.
Jonathan is president and co-founder of InQuill Medical Communications, which also offers multimedia marketing, webinars, and social media strategy. He has had 25 years serving as a senior executive for multimedia giants such as Biocom and Pacific Bell, as well as startups like TiVo and the ISP Channel. He is also the president of the Las Vegas Health and Fitness Chamber of Commerce.
As the lead strategist for the health hive here at Uhuru, I understand the rewards that providing up-front value with no obligation can bring to your healthcare marketing strategy and the importance of continuous learning as a medical professional. Johnathan was an ideal guest to speak on this topic. Here are the key takeaways.
What Is Continuing Medical Education?
Continuing medical education (CME) is an umbrella term for the events and activities that help healthcare professionals maintain, develop, or increase professional performance through knowledge, skills, and relationship-building. CME credentials have been authorized by the American Medical Association to help improve services for patients, the public, or medical professions.
Who Needs Continuing Medical Education?
Most hospitals require physicians to complete a specific number of credits in order to remain credentialed to see patients, while more and more states are requiring a specific number of CME credits annually to maintain medical licenses.
Johnathan has had the opportunity to present educational programming to medical providers — whose needs have changed more drastically than ever in our COVID era. As more people work remotely and juggle multiple roles in their homes, attention spans have been fragmented and ADHD has become more prevalent. Healthcare professionals need to be trained to treat this condition effectively.
Experts like Johnathan also strive to educate patients and their entire households. When a patient needs to make alterations to their lifestyles to promote wellness, this also requires the engagement of a patient’s entire support system. Such group efforts tend to improve the health of more than just the individual with the diagnosed condition.
Educating both patient and provider is critical, because, as Johnathan points out: “Healthcare is really a dialogue, a conversation between the healthcare professional and the patient. So it’s really good to educate both sides so that they can come to this, whatever problem there is or whatever health condition there is, with some level of knowledge that will help each of them communicate.”
How To Leverage Continuing Medical Education
Jonathan shared some of his time-tested approaches for providing valuable medical education to providers, to patients, and to patients via providers. Let’s start with patients.
Often, your potential patients visit health professionals’ websites only to find a long list of tabs and actions they can take to learn about the provider’s specialties, procedures, and processes. No matter how detailed and evidence-based it is, that information only goes so far and keeps them reading only so long.
To attract patients and keep them reading, you must provide content about how you can help them with their problems. Whatever your specialty, protocol, or expertise, most patients want to know exactly how it can help them — and how it has already helped patients with the same condition.
Once they’re convinced they’ve discovered the right provider to resolve their problems, present them with an action to take — whether it’s an assessment form to fill out about their condition, an informational video to watch about it, or an appointment to schedule — make sure your call-to-action is clearly designed and engaging. Make sure your website is user-friendly and demonstrates that you are listening to them and incorporating their feedback.
Educating Healthcare Providers
Healthcare providers are always striving to learn more about their profession, but with the demands in their line of work, they are likely extremely busy. They’re multitasking throughout the day to fit in all they can.
A popular way to provide continuing medical education is to produce webinars for them, which are commonly an hour long. “I think you could easily do something in half an hour, which is more consumable, but I think the key thing is that it’s online, and it’s accessible anytime the health professional has the time to consume the information”, Jonathan says. Check out our detailed and comprehensive guide on hosting successful webinars to get started!
When you make your targeted content available online 24/7, 365 days a year, healthcare professionals can consume it when they’re ready and able to. The pandemic has shifted all content and interaction into the virtual space — conducting business, absorbing education … even relationships are going online.
Although every doctor’s office seems to be filled with piles of magazines and journals, it’s not clear how many of them have actually been read or applied during care delivery. CME experts devise easy, convenient ways for healthcare providers in all specialties to consume and apply that education with patients.
Jonathan says they also promote the up-front value of their offerings by coming up with provocative titles and engaging descriptions that let a provider know exactly what they’re going to get out of content. That includes the reputation of your presenters (make sure to invite specialty experts who know what they’re talking about and have a lot of experience) as well as their public speaking skills — you want listeners to embrace them as nurturing advisors.
Among all of the contributions Johnthan continues to make to the healthcare industry, you can also add ADHDinadults.com to the list. This site is a prime example of what 24/7 continuing medical education should incorporate.
ADHD in Adults has successfully trained over 28,000 healthcare professionals on how to screen for, diagnose, and treat ADHD — all online and on their terms. The curriculum is sharply focused on improving patient outcomes as quickly and efficiently as possible.
How Has Continuing Medical Education Contributed to Health Equity?
Continuing medical education is helping to resolve a major health inequity in the U.S. — narrowing the information access gap. Doing this effectively requires knowing the audience you’re speaking to and speaking their language.
Speaking to an African-American audience might be different from speaking to a Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic audience. Educators must learn which media each audience uses, how they like to consume information, and how they interact with it. Without participation, content is useless.
A very relevant example is the nation’s aggressive effort to educate the populace about COVID vaccinations and counter “vaccine anxiety.” Some people are afraid it’s been developed too quickly. Others may fear they’re being used in some kind of medical experiment.
Educators have to be aware of what their target population is feeling and thinking — and then address those issues. Jonathan is hopeful: “I think there’ll be a lot of promotion on the success of the vaccine in preventing severe cases of COVID, or even preventing COVID, so that more people are encouraged to take the vaccine.”
Adjusting Continuing Medical Education Content to Your Audience
Johnathan and I agreed that online communications and education are really about developing trust and deep-rooted relationships. Posting a wealth of credible information on your website is the first step — then you must make sure search engines are finding it. Once you develop trust with an ever-expanding audience, they’ll keep coming back for more and eventually may opt-in to download more valuable information or schedule an appointment.
The most important step you can take is to educate yourself about what your target patients providers and healthcare organizations want and how they want it. Then, you can provide it in ways that directly and immediately affect their lives.
All websites Jonathan produces feature lots of opt-in opportunities and free giveaways that engage people and inspire them to submit their contact information for further education. I use the same approach — become your visitors’ guide who helps them on their path to solving their problem.
Johnathan’s ADHD education website, for example, needed to be customized for short attention spans. He knows that having successful communications with ADHD patients meant providing shorter, action-based information, so he produced a free downloadable ADHD screener. It’s been immensely popular and useful to the target audience. All people have to do is answer six questions on the screen, then take it to their doctor for follow-up and diagnosis. Screener downloads comprise the biggest portion of website activity to this day.
Continuing Medical Education Tactics
How do you communicate clearly?
How do you write for the public versus the professionals you’re targeting?
Johnathan says the key is tapping into their emotions.
How do you give an effective PowerPoint presentation that engages emotions and bonds people with you? Many educators think it’s enough to push out the critical information, but research shows that emotion has a greater effect on how people act after they hear what you have to share.
Feature case studies and stories of what patients have gone through — including stories of inspiration, healing, and bonding. “If you can really show that and have people feel it, they take in that information much more deeply. So it’s not just about rational education; it’s all about emotionally educating people as well,” Johnathan says.
The national anti-smoking campaign is a good example. There’s so much data out there about the deleterious effects of smoking, but sharing it didn’t really start changing people’s behavior until emotional messages were shared about tobacco addiction. Same with alcohol and other drug addiction campaigns — move people emotionally, and you’ll move them physically to change their behavior.
Since 2013, Johnathan’s been a communications trainer for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The faculty that presents with him has studied successful public outreach for years. They create posters, flyers, and information sheets that have been very effective in getting health information out there and changing behavior. This has been critical to addressing health inequities by improving access to information.
Johnathan produces content in various forms because people absorb information in different ways. Some people like watching a video, others prefer to read. Some patients just take in information quickly, but then take time to think and ponder it. So he really tries to mix up the media he provides.
Once a month, instead of presenting their usual information about specific health conditions, his presenters mix it up and teach practical tips about methods and tactics.
Whether it’s a webinar or a downloadable tip sheet that can be posted on the refrigerator or in the bathroom, the key is to create helpful information in easy-to-use, accessible formats.
Digital Health Innovations Coming Down the Pipeline
What is the next revolutionary change in healthcare delivery? The effects of COVID-driven healthcare transformation will continue with online meetings, online medical appointments, Zoom presentations, virtual appointments, and virtual education.
Psychotherapists, for example, are using virtual medical meetings for patient at-home appointments. This provides a more intimate interaction in the place where they are most comfortable and forthcoming about their struggles. It’s less of a clinical feeling — which is a tremendous improvement for a lot of patients. Virtual health is a doorway into a patient’s life. It’s a direct way to support healthy lifestyles similar to an old-fashioned house call.
This education strategy is also helping professionals disseminate information about vaccines safely and efficiently, as they promote stories of alleviating COVID severity or preventing the virus altogether. These efforts are getting more people comfortable with it and encouraging them to take the vaccine.
Taking into account what we discussed earlier, the best way to reach and engage with your patients as a healthcare provider is to learn and understand their challenges and needs, use the channels they are on, and speak to them in language that will resonate and get them to respond.
What Healthcare Companies Need To Know
Often, companies share information once and think that’s enough. It’s not— consumers will only retain pieces of it.
If you want to educate people and change behavior, you have to educate them multiple times. Learning requires repetition, so it’s key to repeat your information in a variety of formats. Continue to repurpose this content in a variety of ways. This will help people absorb more information and integrate it into their lives.
For example, for your first interaction, you could present a health fact or tip on a podcast. Then, cover it from a different angle with a video or slideshow — this way people are seeing and hearing it. Encourage them to take notes because some people retain more when they write. It’s a retention game; the more they retain, the more they’ll integrate into their lives.
Johnathan often finds that companies that leave patients’ families out of care plans are not as effective as those who actively work to make sure the families are just as invested as the patients in their care. The inclusion of people in the patient’s household is critical.
A large European project he’s working on, called New Brain Nutrition, involves 18 university hospitals doing clinical trials on the gut-brain connection. They’re studying the effects of lifestyle and nutrition on mental health. Using this, they’re educating people on how ADHD or heart disease can be managed with nutrition and lifestyle — which includes the family environment.
During his involvement in the creation of the Diabetes Education Program for the American Academy of Physician Assistants, he discovered how much education patients really need, and how much the engagement of their family or household is necessary to make a lifestyle change.
Get Started on Your Continuing Medical Education Journey
Whether your company employs healthcare providers or health tech developers, learning how to produce continuing medical education content is critical to developing a following of patients and clients that trust you. If you want to learn more about how to produce compelling, user-friendly content, you can connect with Jonathan at inquill.com.
You can also check out our blogs on how to create effective webinars and engaging podcasts to get started yourself. Or, if you would like to connect with our team of experts, you can set up a strategy session and see how much we can do to help your healthcare company.