Continued Medical Education in Developing Nations
This is the age of rapid scientific and technological changes. Everyday new discoveries are made which change our perspective about health and disease. These also prompt changes in diagnostic criteria and treatment protocols. For doctors who are working outside renowned hospitals especially those working in far off region, it is difficult to keep in touch with these changes. To educate primary care physicians about changes in field of medicine, the concept of continued medical education (CME)
was introduced. Continued medical education (CME) is a seminar or a workshop which trains doctors about modern trends in treatment of various diseases.
To understand the problem and its solution first we have to look at how continued medical education (CME)courses are made and delivered to doctors.
First step in making any course is accreditation of course provider by a medical association or health institution. These providers are specialist in their field and have research experience of many years. Then these instructors choose a topic which they think is important for doctors working in clinics. After successful completion of course a certificate is given. This system is well developed in developed countries where it is essential to attend required number of hours of continued medical education (CME) to maintain license to practice.
But in developing countries it is a relatively new idea, still under development and plagued by absence of structure and lack of interest. One of problems is that CME ’s are carried out in hospitals in large cities where it is not possible for many doctors to reach due to travel expense and difficulties as many doctor do not have their own cars. And there is lack of motivation in course providers too. They are not getting enough benefits to see it as a useful activity, worth of skipping hours of clinical practice. Also there is no system of accreditation of course providers and for informing doctors about upcoming courses.
To overcome some of these problems online continued medical education (CME) is being introduced. It has many advantages over traditional classroom style coaching. More number of participants can be accommodated without further arrangements and expenses. Also doctors do not have to leave their clinics and travel to attend lecture and workshop. They can easily do this at home at their preferred time. This saves both time and money.
Besides solving problems in accessing these courses, online CME ‘s also have an advantage over traditional method during coaching. Online CMEs course are rich in multimedia contents. These course are designed to be self directed and let everyone learn at his own pace, creating a favorable environment for learning.
But this distance learning tool is not without problems either. Most of these issues are due to lack of information technology (IT) infrastructure. For example, to prepare and publish online course IT professionals are required but in some countries not enough IT experts are available. Poor internet speed especially in remote areas may hamper doctors from those areas in accessing these courses. Lack of familiarity with online education is also a problem. Although young doctors are very proficient in online learning, this is still new to many senior doctors. These problems are present only in developing countries where use of computers is not widespread.
To change this situation we should act seriously. A national policy should be made to promote this. Those who participate in these courses should give priority in jobs and promotions. And after sometime when CME ‘s become common, certain hours of CME ‘s should be made compulsory to maintain license. Moreover yearly educational vacations should be given to doctors for participation in workshops, seminars and conferences. A board or organization should be established to make accreditation process easier and transparent. Effort should be made for international collaboration. To promote online learning doctors should be given computer training. Infrastructure for internet access should also be provided in remote areas.
In former times medical education was limited to achievement of degree or diploma. But this trend is changing with rapid advancement in medicine and better communication. Now patients have access to all the latest information they need about their disease. There is need is to create a system to keep doctors updated about recent changes and to refresh their old knowledge, so that they do not lag behind patients. So far most of contribution is done by private hospitals and medical associations which are working without government aid.
It is time that government should also step in and provide proper facilities to conduct continued medical education (CME) courses.
About the author: Tabish Aljaz is a medical student from National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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