Engaging healthcare professionals with continuing medical education activities

Rebecca Aris interviews Darren Gillgrass


pharmaphorum interviews Darren Gillgrass of Informa’s Custom Publishing Group on gaining CME accreditation, engaging HCPs with CME activities and what therapeutic areas are popular with CME activities in Europe.

The Good CME Practice Group (gCMEp) aims to look specifically at how the European education provider / agency community works in CME and to develop the appropriate operating standards.

Darren Gillgrass, member of the gCMEp group, has been working in the healthcare publishing space for 20 years.

Darren speaks with pharmaphorum around the topic of CME – on the accreditation process, how to identify when CME materials are required and what therapeutic areas of CME are the most popular.

Interview summary

RA: Darren, thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview, could you please explain your role as Managing Director of Informa’s Custom Publishing Group.

DG: I am responsible for developing the business strategy and product / service plans to support two areas of the healthcare market, physician education and patient engagement (tools and content). As part of the physician education strategy, my group have developed a specific European CME strategy, offering a unique online platform to house our accredited programs including a CME tracker to help physicians track their points as well as pre and post test and evaluation questionnaires. Our objective therefore is to support an improvement in clinical practice and higher engagement between physicians and their patients during diagnosis and treatment.

RA: What steps need to be taken in order to get CME material accredited, and how have you seen this process change over the years?

DG: CME providers need to be completely familiar with the accreditation requirements of the accrediting bodies from which they seek accreditation, both nationally and pan-European (if aiming to gain accreditation through the EACCME). It is essential therefore, to follow these requirements as you develop the CME material and be able to provide sufficient documentation of your efforts, to increase the likelihood of being successful during the evaluation process.


“…provide education that the healthcare professional most needs to improve their clinical practice…”


As the accreditation process now places more emphasis on the development of CME materials which address more specific physician educational needs, CME providers need to be able to demonstrate that the educational activity has effected a change in physician behaviour. This is done via outcomes data with the aim of improving the health care provided to their patients.

In recent years we have seen the introduction of an online application system, which has made the process of submission and tracking of e-learning and live event programmes much easier to manage. One of the most positive changes in support of providers is that the accrediting bodies have made their requirements clearer and more readily available, although there is still more work to be done to provide more definitive and consistent guidance in areas of pharma sponsorship and funding of activities.

RA: How do you identify areas in which CME material needs to be produced?

DG: We identify these areas through a proper, fully developed needs assessment, which I believe is essential to creating an effective educational intervention. Optimally, a needs assessment can be developed from four (or even more) basic sources: expert opinion, literature search, clinical data within a hospital or hospitals, and previous CME activity evaluation assessment questionnaire responses or surveys. The needs assessment should perceive, identify and analyse why a particular CME activity is needed by healthcare professionals — the magnitude of the area to be addressed and the severity of the problem. The needs assessment also should specify instructional intent and / or expected outcomes—what the supplement is expected to teach participants and how that new knowledge should help the healthcare professional in his / her clinical practice.

RA: What do you think is key to engaging HCPs with CME activities?

DG: The simple answer is to provide education that the healthcare professional most needs to improve their clinical practice, in a format they most engage with and in a timeframe to when they most need it. In addressing their specific educational needs, HCP’s level of engagement will be maximised and the likelihood of the education provider effecting real behavioural change will be increased.


“Across Europe, oncology, cardiovascular disease (and surgery), neurology and psychiatry appear to be the most popular areas of CME…”


RA: What therapeutic areas of CME activities prove to be the most popular and why do you think this is?

DG: Across Europe, oncology, cardiovascular disease (and surgery), neurology and psychiatry appear to be the most popular areas of CME, with diabetes (and metabolic disorders) and rheumatology growing in importance. Rapid and continuous advancements in the diagnosis and treatment methods associated with each of these disease areas goes some way towards explaining the reasons why providers focus heavily in these areas.

RA: What do you think is next for CME?

DG: The answer to this question comes in several parts, firstly, I believe that Europe has much more to do to integrate its thinking and standards on CME. We have seen huge progress with the introduction of the European CME Forum, the increase in dialogue, goodwill and communication between the national accrediting bodies, EACCME, UEMS, Societies and providers and the introduction of the guiding principles by the Good CME Practice group. Coming out of this process will potentially be single standard guidance for providers with a view that they will be able to provide CME activities that are relevant to all healthcare professionals, no matter where they reside in Europe. Taking this further I hope we see a globalisation of accrediting body regulations to ensure that healthcare professionals globally will be able to access and make use of any CME activity no matter where it was created. Looking in to the near future, I believe there will be some further discussion and guidance on the role of CME within continuing professional development (CPD).


About the interviewee:

Darren Gillgrass has been working within the healthcare space for 20 years, in particular within the healthcare publishing sector. Since joining the industry in 1992 he has held different roles within the medical and academic books, journals and pharmaceutical service sectors, specialising in physician education since 1999.

Darren is currently the Managing Director of Informa’s Custom Publishing Group and can be contacted here.

How can CME activities engage HCPs?