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J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2010 Winter;30(1):3-10. doi: 10.1002/chp.20050.

The growth, characteristics, and future of online CME.

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Medical Directions, Inc., Tucson, AZ 85712, USA.



Physician use of online continuing medical education (CME) is growing, but there are conflicting data on the uptake of online CME and few details on this market.


Analyses of 11 years of data from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and a survey of 272 publicly available CME Web sites.


The data suggest that online CME was 6.9%-8.8% of CME consumed in 2008. If previous exponential growth continues, online CME is likely to be 50% of all CME consumed within 7-10 years. Most (60%) online CME is produced by medical publishing and education companies. The online CME marketplace is consolidating, with 16% of surveyed sites providing 76% of available credits. Currently, 70% of online CME is offered at $10 or less per credit. Most online CME uses low-technology educational approaches, such as pure text and repurposed live lectures.


Online CME use is growing rapidly and is likely to be half of all CME consumed by practicing physicians within a few years. The pattern is consistent with Christensen's model of "disruptive innovation," whereby an innovative technology eventually displaces an incumbent technology by first providing a relatively low-quality, low-cost product that meets the needs of unserved customers. The technologies being developed for online CME may facilitate broader changes in medical education as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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