COVID-19's Impact on Continuing Medical Education

Zana Hekmat
Author: Zana Hekmat, Analyst  

With the rapid evolution of news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for
institutions and programs to be observant of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and other trusted sources. By staying well acquainted and actively
responsive to the most recent medical information and practices from these numerous
resources, institutions, and programs, we'll all be better positioned to handle and manage the
impacts of COVID-19 on CME. Travel restrictions upheld by both the institutions/programs
and federal/state guidelines will need to be monitored to continue CME for providers.
Institutions and programs should provide providers engaging in any CME conferences or
any educational activity with as much advance notice as possible if travel restrictions
necessitate cancellation for any onsite activities. If and when appropriate, registration fees
that have already been paid will be accounted for and reimbursed in accordance with the
entity’s guidelines.

Under normal circumstances prior to COVID-19, CME may have involved numerous
learning opportunities and methods based on the setting, identified needs, desired results,
and learning styles of targeted audiences. These educational activities included but were
not limited to: conferences and workshops; regularly scheduled series such as grand
rounds, case conferences, Morbidity & Mortality Conferences (M&M), Journal Clubs,
simulation training, maintenance of certification (MOC), and online courses/modules. With
the introduction of COVID-19, the health and safety of providers and presenters relative to
CME activities will be of significant importance, as will ensuring appropriate education to
providers. Many organizations have given special consideration and prioritization for CME
activities involving the latest updates, news, and education on COVID-19.

To help limit the spread of the virus and maintain precautionary measures, institutions
and programs have seen a prominent increase in online courses and modules. Learning
activities institutions and programs have focused on due to COVID-19 have a strong emphasis
on telemedicine, clinical features and diagnosis, epidemiology, ventilators, personal
protection, patient management in the ICU, respiratory therapy, and travel medicine. In
response to the coronavirus outbreak, many organizations/resources such as the
Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), American Medical
Association (AMA), The Journal of the American Medical Association Network (JAMA),
Medscape, and the American Heart Association (AHA) have offered many recommended
accredited education web-based activities. Formats include live/pre-recorded
webinars, podcasts, articles, podcasts, and online courses. The American College of
Physicians (ACP) is another entity that has made educational content freely available as a
public service including the COVID-19: An ACP Physician's Guide and
Incorporation of Telemedicine into Your Practice.

It is pertinent for providers to be attentive and follow guidelines set by their institutions to
effectively carry out any CME activities during the pandemic. Significant disruptions to CME
activity will encompass institutions classified at the Stage 3 level but may see decreased
CME activity at the Stage 2 level. As addressed on the COVID-19 Frequently Asked
Questions on the ACGME website regarding expectations of the conduct of didactics such
as educational conferences and journal clubs, ACGME notes that: “Programs should continue
to provide education to residents/fellows, when feasible, utilizing remote conferencing
technology, web-based resources, and other innovative tools."

For future reference, programs should document the educational activities that they are
able to provide during the crisis.”  Further information regarding definition,
requirements in effect, flexibility, and ACGME notification relative to stages can be found at

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