How CME integrated into EHRs can cut costs, improve care quality

Regardless of clinical specialties, all health care providers have been tasked to reduce medical expenses and bolster quality of care. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pushed the adoption of electronic health records through the meaningful use initiative to assist doctors in engaging patient populations.

While providers endure roughly eight years of schooling to earn their positions as valued members of the industry, continuing medical education modules deliver useful learning tools right to doctors' fingertips. According to research from CMEology, a Connecticut-based innovator in health outcomes analysis, CME can help reduce expensive health care costs.

Presenting at last year's 18th annual meeting of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research, Dana Ravyn, Ph.D., scientific director and senior analyst at CMEology, discussed how these materials can impact the financial end of the industry.

"With the changing nature of health care economics, there was a need to communicate the benefits of CME, and everyone understands costs," said Ravyn, quoted by Policy and Medicine, "Studies have not typically evaluated the economic impact of CME because doing so requires extensive follow up that is both time consuming and cost prohibitive."

Researchers evaluated the economic effect when cardiac and thoracic surgeons applied knowledge from CME activities pertaining to bleeding-related complications during procedures. The model base that CMEology created predicted what would happen if 30 percent of the participants prevented these obstacles in only 2 percent of their annual surgeries. The estimated savings as a result of CME learning ranged from $1.5 to $2.7 million per year.

The participants completed an evaluation at the end of the study, and again one year later, reporting a high commitment to incorporating CME into their respective practices.

Poll indicates similar findings
According to EHRIntelligence, a new poll shows that while 81 percent of providers want to see a direct link between CME and improving patient outcomes, 78 percent believe that the educational modules are effective in enhancing care quality. Surveying more than 300 physicians using EHR software, the research found that only 1 percent of users accessed CME through their health IT product.

Since their introduction, EHRs have transitioned from standard documentation tools to full suites capable of supporting clinical decision making. Much of this advancement can be attributed to stage 2 meaningful use requirements that call for extended data sharing among medical practices and improved interoperability in EHRs. As doctors work toward attestation to receive financial rewards from the CMS, there is a legitimate opportunity to integrate proficiency into health IT systems.

By bringing clinical data analytics and CME into EHRs, physicians can fill gaps in their knowledge base. For example, orthopedic specialists can learn more about complications of various treatments and figure out the appropriate strategies for specific patients.

As the industry moves toward value-based care and health outcomes continue to impact the financial stability of practices, integrating CME into EHRs might drive physicians to further their clinical learning into previously uncharted territories.