Patient involvement in continuing medical education (CME) is becoming more common, but how can we ensure that these efforts benefit everyone?
Including patient perspectives in CME brings several benefits. For learners, patient insights offer important feedback to healthcare providers (HCPs), making them more aware of patient needs and adding real-life context to educational materials. For patients, this involvement empowers them as experts in their own conditions. Moreover, it improves patient outcomes by tailoring education to their actual needs. These advantages are increasingly acknowledged in CME, and ACCME now has a criterion that recognizes providers who involve patient/public representatives in planning and delivering CME in their menu of criteria for accreditation with commendation.
Whilst the benefits of patient inclusion are clear, patient involvement should not be an afterthought, and CME organizers should place the patient’s needs and perspectives at the forefront. This means talking to patients from the early stages of the program, at proposal stage if possible, to get their steer on what is important to include in the program as a whole. It is important that we reflect on the healthcare gaps that we are trying to address and ask ourselves whether including the patient voice will be beneficial for both learners and the patient community. If the answer to this question is yes, we can start thinking about how to ensure a positive, patient-centered approach.
As providers, we have vast experience in dealing with experts from many different specialties and backgrounds. However, most patients will have no experience working on CME initiatives, so will need extra support and guidance. Additional considerations that should be made when engaging patients include creating a safe space by respecting their privacy and addressing any concerns, acknowledging their diverse backgrounds and experiences, and tailoring of content to educate HCPs on the specific healthcare gaps that they experience. Effective communication that is sympathetic to the patient’s circumstances and possible lack of experience working on CME projects is vital. To ensure that they feel comfortable throughout the process, we should reiterate that they don’t need to share information that they are uncomfortable with and reassure them that they do not need to be an expert in the science behind their condition. Providing clear information about their role and the objectives of the program also helps to improve patient confidence when taking part. We also need to consider any accessibility and medical needs that individuals may have and ensure that our faculty and vendors are aware of these too.
Finally, it’s important that we establish mechanisms for patients to provide feedback on their experience working with us. By regularly assessing the patient experience, we can ensure that that patient involvement continues to be a valuable and positive experience, and that our programs continue to align with real-world patient needs.
Precision oncology is one of many therapy areas where the benefits of effective patient engagement are clear. In precision oncology, patients are matched to a targeted treatment based on their individual molecular and genetic characteristics. Patients with actionable biomarkers have a distinct identity within the cancer community that affects their information-seeking behavior and advocacy1, however they have variable preferences for how much information they would like to hear when undergoing molecular testing or starting a targeted therapy, and it can be difficult for physicians to balance hopeful communication about the benefits of targeted therapy whilst setting realistic expectations.
In our program ‘Biomarker-driven management of NSCLC’, we have seen how conversations involving patients can provide a valuable insight into the issues faced by patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In our shared decision-making video, Dr Alexander Drilon asks Alex Miles, a police officer currently undergoing treatment for NTRK fusion-positive NSCLC, about how best to communicate with patients about biomarker testing and targeted therapies. The insights provided by Alex provide a unique look into the real-life concerns and communication preferences of patients with NSCLC. Alex’s participation has enriched our educational program by providing a perspective that is often overlooked in CME and provides learners with relevant and patient-centric advice that can help them improve physician-patient communication in their daily practice. This program provides a key example of why CME providers should be including the patient voice, and how by adopting a patient-centric approach, we can ensure that everyone benefits from these efforts.
- Petrillo LA, et al. Cancer 2022;128:3120–3128.