Education

How to Deliver a CME Course (+ Tips for a Great Virtual Course)

Discover how to deliver a CME course for healthcare professionals. Get tips for creating and promoting an accredited virtual course.

Published on December 20, 2023 • About 7 min. read
healthcare professional delivering a CME course

Developing a continuing medical education (CME) course can be a smart way to share your healthcare knowledge, establish yourself as an industry leader, and educate fellow physicians.

But before you devote time and effort to creating these materials, make sure you're up to speed on CME requirements, the accreditation process, and tactics for promoting your course.

In this article, we'll explain everything you need to get started, including what makes a class worthwhile for healthcare professionals and how to deliver a CME course virtually.

Templates

Access these 6 email templates to drive attendance to your virtual events.

How do you define a valuable CME course?

The main goal of any continuing medical education program is to help physicians maintain or advance the skills they need to treat patients or serve the public. High-value CME courses take this concept a step further by:

  • Introducing physicians to advancements in their specialty areas
  • Educating professionals about emerging healthcare trends
  • Showing physicians new tools and treatments to consider adopting
  • Informing professionals about regulations that may affect their roles

In addition, an effective CME course should check all the boxes below.

Adhere to accreditation guidelines

Professionals in the healthcare industry take CME courses to learn. But they also enroll in these courses to earn the credits they need to maintain their licenses.

In order for your course to provide these credits, your organization must be accredited. Most providers receive accreditation directly from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) or a state medical society.

Share reliable information

Any CME course must be based on the knowledge and skills accepted and followed by the medical profession. This includes basic medical sciences, public healthcare, and clinical medicine.

All information conveyed in your CME course must be based on current research—either your own or that of industry leaders. Always refer to the most recent studies as you develop material.

Demonstrate lack of commercial bias

As you create CME courses, make sure they aren't influenced by your own commercial or financial relationships. CME materials must maintain an independent perspective without commercial bias.

Prepare interactive CME activities

To make your CME course as successful as possible, add interactive features. For example, if you plan to host a live course, enable polls, Q&As, and even breakout rooms to engage students while still following virtual classroom guidelines.

Offer virtual education

Virtual CME courses are often easier for providers to create and students to attend. There are a few reasons virtual classrooms are so helpful:

  • Live streaming can reach professionals across states and timezones.
  • On-demand courses allow professionals to earn CME courses at their own pace.
  • Unlike in-person CME courses, virtual learning doesn't create scheduling conflicts or staff coverage issues.
doctor sitting at a desk giving a video consultation

Who needs to earn CME credits?

As you develop your continuing education course, keep your target audience in mind. Medical professionals need to earn CME credits in the following scenarios:

  • When they practice in a state that requires a certain number of credits to maintain a license.
  • When they work in a hospital that requires a certain number of credits to see patients.

Many types of healthcare professionals have annual CME requirements. By developing courses for one of the following specialties, you can reach the largest audience segments:

  • Audiologists
  • Healthcare executives
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Pharmacists
  • Physician assistants
  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Speech language pathologists
Templates

Access these 6 email templates to drive attendance to your virtual events.

How to deliver an effective virtual CME course

Curious how to develop and deliver a CME course for a virtual audience? Use these steps as a guide.

1. Become accredited

Before you do anything else, take all the necessary steps to become an accredited CME provider. You can do this by submitting an application directly to the ACCME.

Make sure your organization meets all the requirements to become accredited by the ACCME. Some of the basic requirements include:

  • Have a regular program of presenting CME
  • Present content with scientifically valid information
  • Not being an ineligible company that produces, markets, or sells healthcare products

Keep in mind that initial accreditation by the ACCME can take several months and generally involves a series of interviews. Make sure to start the process several months in advance.

Remember that most professionals are likely to take your course for CME credits. However, you can't claim that your course provides CME credits until your organization has been accredited.

In other words, you can't begin promoting your course until the ACCME process is complete. As a result, it's critical to get an early start and leave yourself plenty of time.

2. Determine the learning objectives

Next, decide on the main goals for your CME course. Here are some questions to guide you:

  • What do you intend for learners to gain from the course?
  • How will you provide unique value to healthcare professionals?
  • How will your course advance continuing medical education?

3. Define the target audience

Get clear on the audience you intend for the course to reach. Defining your audience early in the process will make both the design and the promotion of the course much easier.

For example, you may opt to develop a course for:

  • Physician assistants
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Pharmacists
  • Surgeons

4. Design and develop the course

Now you're ready to develop the CME course. Within your accredited organization, collaborate with colleagues to choose the most appropriate provider to deliver a course on a given topic.

To provide maximum value and keep learners engaged, write a script that factors in many learning styles. For example, you might share videos, review case studies, or provide hands-on exercises.

continuing medical education lecture

Keep in mind that the more engaging and educational your CME courses are, the more likely learners will be to consider enrolling in any future courses you offer.

5. Decide on a delivery method

When you offer virtual CME courses, you can choose from two delivery methods. Both have pros and cons.

  • Livestream: When you deliver a CME course in real time, you can organize more interactive activities and engage directly with learners. Since you'll only be able to deliver it once, you'll need to market the course extensively to ensure high attendance.
  • On-demand: When you record a CME course and allow learners to watch on demand, you won't be able to answer questions or interact in real time. However, learners will be able to access it for an extended time period, giving you more opportunities to boost attendance.

6. Choose a CME platform

Most CME providers host virtual course material on one of two types of online teaching platforms.

Webinar platform

With webinar software like Livestorm, you can either stream live CME courses or host on-demand events. Using Livestorm's registration pages and email reminders, you can easily promote courses.

Livestorm room healthcare

During events, you can use build-in engagement tools to poll learners, answer questions, or invite them to breakout rooms. You can also use Livestorm analytics to measure the course's success.

Learning management system

Another option is using a learning management system (LMS). A typical LMS has course authoring tools for providers and learning paths for healthcare professionals.

But in comparison to a webinar platform, an LMS is less flexible. Unlike a webinar platform, an LMS won't work for video conferencing or provide robust promotional features.

7. Promote the course

Once you've designed the CME course and squared away the logistics, make sure your efforts pay off. Take time to promote the course and maximize attendance. Here are some avenues to consider:

  • Create a custom registration page, which is easy to do with Livestorm features
  • Recommend the course to colleagues outside of your organization
  • Mention the course on your LinkedIn company page and in other professional forums
  • Advertise the course to an audience of healthcare professionals
  • Send email reminders to ensure learners attend and complete the course
Livestorm email & registration page

8. Deliver or record the course

Did you opt for on-demand delivery? You can work with your executive team to record the course at any time before its planned release date.

Did you decide to livestream the course? You'll need to be ready to deliver the course on time.

No matter which CME platform you choose, it's a good idea to sign in at least 15 minutes before the start time. Then you'll have ample time to address any technical issues or coordinate with co-hosts.

9. Provide attendance data

Depending on where and how you deliver the course, you may be responsible for recording and sharing learners' attendance data. This is an important final step because learners may not receive CME credit without confirmation of their attendance.

Frequently Asked Questions About CME Courses

What is a CME provider?

A CME provider is a healthcare professional or organization that creates continuing education material. CME providers must be accredited by the ACCME.

What is the quickest way to earn CME?

As a healthcare professional, you can earn CME credits many different ways. Depending on the state where you practice and your preferred learning experience, some of these methods may be more efficient than others:

  • Completing virtual CME courses in your field of study
  • Attending accredited symposiums that highlight new medical research
  • Going to accredited conferences or panel discussions
  • Reading accredited articles or listing to accredited podcasts

How do you calculate CME credits?

The American Medical Association (AMA) Physician's Recognition Award (PRA) is the standard system for determining CME credit and category.

Each state has different CME earning requirements. Most require a certain number of CME credits for each licensure cycle, which generally lasts for 2 to 3 years.

Many states require a certain number of AMA PRA Category 1 or AMA PRA Category 2 credits. Every course, conference, or other CME activity must specify the category and number of credits it provides.