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6 Things Every Radiologist Should Know About CME

There’s no shortage of options for radiologists pursuing CME credits. In fact we sometimes find ourselves facing “overchoice,” a condition correctly predicted in 1970 by the late futurist Alvin Toffler. The phenomenon can cause us to browse, stall and procrastinate—only to make an impulse purchase just to get it over with.

You don’t have to let that happen when it comes to radiology CME selection. Instead, you can head off overchoice by making educated choices for your ongoing education. To help with that, I bring you some observations that, in my opinion, every radiologist should ponder in the 2020s.

As a longtime CME content creator and teacher, I consider it something of a calling to help radiologists spend their time and money wisely when fulfilling CME requirements. And I hope this post helps you do just that from this day forward.

1. For radiologists, images trounce text.

Frankly I’m surprised to see that a lot of radiology CME is still rooted in words. This makes little sense to me circa 2021. Medical images are our lives. They’re the whole point of our job. Practicing for work by reading text documents strikes me as an odd approach for a first-line learning module.

In my opinion radiology CME should be image-based, period. It should traffic in images of findings that can build visual acuity and, with it, diagnostic accuracy. Words are very easily forgotten. Images burn learnings into brains.

2. Almost anything with a medical bent will qualify as CME.

There are lectures of all kinds out there. If the course has some element of medical information, it may be good for credits and worth your while. Aside from obvious clinical content, legit topics range from practice operations to patient safety to the management of diagnostic centers.

Having said that, I don't need to remind you how precious your time is.

. And there are certain parameters you might do well to stay within. For example, the American College of Radiology recommends radiologists have modality-specific or subspecialty-heavy CME. This is relatively new, having started around 2016. Prior to that, CME was CME. Nobody cared what specialty or subspecialty you were. You could take rheumatology courses and get a state license.

That was then and this is now. Today it’s a big plus to get your credits from teaching sources who arrange courses by imaging modality.

3. Requirements vary by state.

The average number of credits required is right around 20 hours per year of Category 1 CME. However, some states want more, some accept fewer, and some let you fulfill their requirements every other year rather than annually. The most demanding licensing body I’ve worked for is the U.S. Department of Defense, for which you need to compile 50 hours every two years.

Teleradiology practices that maintain multiple state licenses are generally held to each state’s highest requirement. Meanwhile, a handful of states have added their own unique CME requirements. I’m acutely aware of this because my job requires me to be licensed in all 50. Each year I take courses in elder abuse, end-of-life issues, AIDS patient management, medical error management, domestic abuse, child abuse and so on. Each of those is a hot-button issue in the state that mandates the training.

A sidenote to this is managing your CME records. This unpleasant task, right up there with managing passwords, very often falls on the radiologist. Because most vRad radiologists hold licenses in multiple states, our practice manages that task for them.

4. Costs vary by setting.

Whether you choose to go onsite or online for your CME, there’s a lot out there. For many rads the choice comes down to price. Both options have their pros and cons, so your pick really depends on what you’re looking for.

Online CME, which has been the go-to-choice during the pandemic, offers credits for a very low cost. Sometimes you can even get them for free. Come to think of it, low-cost or no-cost CME is growing so fast that many radiologists may soon come to expect it.

For onsite the costs are simply much higher. After all, you have to consider travel, accommodations for two or three nights, registration, food and so on. A typical 20-hour CME excursion to Las Vegas, for example, is likely to cost your practice upwards of $3,000 in the final tally. Take a destination CME trip to, say, a beautiful beach resort, and you’re looking at $5,000-plus.

5. Practicality in course selection pays off.

I like to get my CMEs whenever a clinical question causes me to recognize a gap in my knowledge. You too may find this is a good habit to get into—and that’s regardless of how many hours you’ve compiled. Ideally the pursuit of credit hours becomes a secondary consideration as we’re guided by our intellectual curiosity and the demands of daily practice. It’s best when our work naturally leads us to meet CME requirements and we’re not just checking off credit boxes, so to speak.

6. High quality CME can be free.

This brings me to a certain teleradiology practice headquartered in Minnesota. The group I’m thinking of maintains many thousands of digitized, imaging-based teaching files for 100% free online radiology CME. Guess its name?

Yes, and vRad takes its teaching mission very seriously. Our no-cost CME is all about helping radiologists become highly accurate diagnosticians. Whenever I’m asked about our place in the radiology CME space, I come back to this: vRad is a data-driven practice. We measure everything.

As part of this, the content that we incorporate into our CME is entirely drawn from the lived experience of approximately 500 radiologists reading more than 7 million studies per year. Any one of them can drop interesting cases into our 50,000-case teaching file. All of them are gripping or at least eye-opening, but we select only the most edifying to present. We always include final diagnoses and clinical outcomes, leveraging our robust QA process—20%-plus overreading across our practice—to teach on real-world malpractice exposures, sentinel events and other fraught scenarios.

I sincerely believe vRad is setting the standard for radiology education across all price points. I’d love to see other teaching organizations adopt our methodologies, because our aim is to recreate the full experience of interpreting a diagnostic imaging examination in every hour of our CME.

That’s enough words from me for now. To see vRad CME in all its details, click here.

P.S. I’ve been asked if I can recommend any CME teaching sources aside from vRad. Happily, the answer is yes. The American Society of Emergency Radiology (ASER) goes a little further afield with CME than does vRad, which is relatively focused. We recently began a collaboration with them by which ASER’s CME videos are available on our website. vRad’s interests and those of ASER are closely aligned, so I’m happy to give them a warm endorsement for both CME and membership.


radiology CME

Author Benjamin W. Strong, MD

Chief Medical Officer, Education Committee Chair. Dr. Strong is at the forefront of efforts to expand access to quality, affordable care through telemedicine. As CMO for the nation’s largest radiology practice, he collaborates with radiologist and hospital partners, uncovering opportunities to enhance the practice environment. Dr. Strong completed residency in internal medicine, then practiced emergency medicine before later being drawn to the fast-paced flow of diagnostic puzzles that is radiology.



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