Inching towards the 3As (affordability, accessibility, and availability) healthcare goal spelled out by the government, and further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian healthcare ecosystem is making giant strides in Continuing Medical Education (CME) with the help of digital technology.The most prestigious medical law-making body, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has recently mandated medical professionals to complete 30 hours of CME every five years to facilitate the renewal of medical licences, thus fuelling its visible impact on medical students and doctors.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the vast increase in the number of medical students has led to the expansion of medical colleges from 387 to 596 between 2014 and 2021. Also, seats for medical students grew by 72% from 51,348 seats to 88,120 seats whereas postgraduate seats expanded by 78%, from 31,185 seats before 2014 to 55,595 seats in 2021. Both these huge factors created an urgent need for CMEs, also signaling the impact of CMEs in India’s fast-paced progressing medical sector.
Meanwhile, the mode of CME delivery also plays a significant role in mindfully, tactfully, and largely impacting Indian medical students and healthcare professionals wherein digitization evolved sizably. In the current context, the Indian healthcare ecosystem is speedily transforming as digital CME learning solutions overtake the traditional seminars and workshop model. While various healthcare institutions and councils attempt to strike a balance between physical and digital delivery of CME, digitization of learning material dominates the current status.
Impact of CMEs on Medical Students and the Indian Healthcare Ecosystem
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the healthcare landscape globally in terms of access to care, medical education, care delivery, patient management and so on. Concerning India, the World Health Organisation (WHO) through its Economic Survey 2019-20 laid down a recommendation of 1:1000 doctor-population ratio against the present 1:1456.
Recognizing this urgent need, the Medical Council of India (MCI) launched an internationally accredited Competency-Based Medical Education (CBME) curriculum for MBBS students in 2019. This curriculum seek to switch from a content-based medical syllabus towards a more practical one aligning with India’s increasing healthcare demands. Most medical institutions delivering digital CMEs today religiously follow the CBME thus impacting a holistic development of medical students and professionals focused on resolving care language, patient communication, and regular assessments through the Objective Structured Clinical Evaluation (OSCE) and mini-clinical evaluations.
In the light of the above, these are the immediate impacts and trends of CME on medical students and the country’s healthcare ecosystem:
Enabled by digital technology like apps, websites, e-consultation, online video learning sessions and e-journals, CMEs are ensuring last-mile delivery of the latest medical education content across time and distance
Medical students from across the country and doctors located in different parts of the world amid their hectic schedule are constantly undergoing skill upgradation with a few clicks thus exponentially minimizing their costs of travel and learning
Digital technology by utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven tools is ensuring that doctors receive the right content, targeted at their particular field of interest or specialization
Content engagement solutions through web-based CME has helped doctors engage in CMEs in a much faster pace than before as content can be individualized, personalized and curated as per their browsing traits, knowledge consumption hours, learning patters, etc.
Post-COVID online CME has in fact made the medical community better versed and diversified in terms of learning than physical CMEs whose success would often depend on its limited reach
Not just medical students and healthcare professionals, digital CMEs are also assisting patients by disseminating authentic medical knowledge that is critical in the ongoing “misinformation age”
To summarize, the impact of CMEs on medical students and India’s healthcare ecosystem has been targeting minimal yet meaningful touch points to garner targeted outcomes.
Key Figures and CME Trends
In the present Indian healthcare space, three most popular CME platforms are contributing profoundly with impressive figures discussed below:
Kolkata-based CLIRNET witnessed a massive surge in CME enrolment of medical professionals where the numbers shot up from a scant 25,000 before COVID to a whopping 250,000. Insights from the organization predict that a monthly average of 8,000 to 10,000 doctors join the platform which will potentially hit a target of 350,000 by June 2023.
Bangalore-based MedLern has covered 310 hospitals, 50 colleges and 83,000 healthcare professionals under its CME programme.
GenWorks from Bangalore has actively conducted digital CME programmes for 15,000 doctors targeting Tier II and Tier III demographics focussed on cervical cancer prevention and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination since the last one and half years.
Impact of Continuing Medical Education on Medical Students and the Indian Healthcare ecosystem: The Way Forward
Although more popular globally, digital CME in the Indian healthcare ecosystem is still in its nascent stage where the way forward leads to creating tailored CMEs for critical care, service delivery, patient safety, quality management, infection control, and authentic knowledge delivery. With CMEs combining video and live demonstrations, it is vital to introduce simulation-based skill modules and rigorous assessments led by experts in order to measure further impact.
While the Indian healthcare space remains abuzz with authenticity, research, ethics and interventions in CME delivery, its larger impact on the populace can only be measured in the times to come.