You Had Questions, We’ve Got Answers

Picture this: Packed live in-person/virtual meeting, lots of questions from the audience, limited time to get to them.

A voice says: “We’re sorry, but we’re out of time. If we didn’t get to your questions, please feel free to write it out, give it to one of our staff, and our faculty will address them after the session. We’ll make their responses available, um, somehow.”

But do they? Not in my experience.

Well, CMEpalooza is not like those other meetings, so when our faculty promises to “get back to everyone” with their thoughts on questions we could not address during our live sessions, they mean it! And so, today, we’re offering you additional thoughts from two of our most popular sessions last week where the questions came flooding in from the live audience:

In addition, we also had requests for slides from two other sessions. You can find those below:

Our CMEpalooza Spring Intern Says Her Farewell

It is with a heavy heart that Derek and I wished our inaugural CMEpalooza intern Katie a bon voyage this week. Alas, we couldn’t wave from the shore as she boarded a cruise to Puerto Vallarta…

Here are Katie’s parting words for everyone.

Well, folks, all good things must come to an end!

It has been a pleasure sharing my thoughts with you all, and I hope you enjoyed CMEpalooza Spring 2020! I’ve learned a few things on this journey. For instance, Scott is awesome and Derek is, um, Derek (I kid, they are both wonderful, but Scott made me say it!)

I had CMEpalooza pulled up on my TV earlier this week, and it was great to hear what everyone had to say. I’ve been limited to my laptop and its speakers for so many weeks, which just doesn’t have the same effect, so actually being able to watch a bigger screen was a nice treat. If you missed or want to replay any of the CMEpalooza Spring 2020 sessions, they are all available online here (just click “View archive” under each session title).

While creating my farewell post, it’s impossible to not address the elephant in the room, COVID-19. It has tremendously impacted our industry. All of us are in this same boat of uncertainty, thinking about how we can help the front-line staff fighting for survival every day while also continuing the “normal business” of educating the full swath of healthcare providers. I love the quote, “Change is the only constant in life.” COVID-19 has brought a lot of change, but it has also brought opportunity. A few sessions during CMEpalooza Spring addressed ways in which their organization is adapting to our new world. With each session, there was something all of us can take away from the conversation and change about our current processes to better our programs.

The 9 a.m. session, entitled “How Should the CE Industry Respond to a Novel Healthcare Crisis,” brought the interesting perspective of a frontline provider that I hadn’t heard yet.

The 10 a.m. session talked about the proposed changes to the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support. After this session, the proposed changes don’t seem like such a shock anymore. Perhaps that’s because we’re in a shocking state in general, but if the changes are approved, we’ll have time to adjust, and in the end, it will be fine. We can do it!

The 11 a.m. session was all about OUTCOMES! They nicely tied together best practices for National Board of Medical Examiners guidelines, how to create questions, and tips on ways review your data (measurements and costs).

The noon session panelists shared their perspectives on ways to focus on behavioral change to meet outcomes and how to help physicians adopt tools to meet their educational goals and improve patient care.

The 1 p.m. session was a nice discussion where panelists shared opportunities and their expertise on how to build momentum to move forward with educational redesign.

The 2 p.m. session was a great one to listen to. Even though we don’t submit grant requests at my institution, it was interesting to hear how things go down on the grant supporter side. I also learned a new term – change of scope – and that there is an expectation to have a contingency plan in place when submitting grants.

The 3 p.m. session was Jake Powers. They did it again! I love this session. It’s a great blend of creativity and knowledge. I thought it was funny that I hadn’t heard of “change of scope” before the previous session, and then Jake Powers solved the mystery for me by providing the definition and applying it. So much better than what Google would have provided. Thank you, Jack, I mean Jake!

The 4 p.m. session is one of my favorite formats. It is nice to see real-life cases that affect our community and hear how a variety of panelists would approach each challenge. The session was split so you got to hear how the MEEC group and hospital-based group would handle different scenarios presented. (Tiger King was a hot topic… just kidding it was COVID-19)

As always, every session was great, and I really enjoyed learning from my peers. It is so important during this time to reach out to your fellow colleagues, participate in these online meetings, read online articles, and/or listen to podcasts. As it relates to the CME industry, not the news (as I’m steering clear for a bit), it makes me feel more at ease to be in the know and hear about how others are adapting to the changes.

I remind you all to take deep breaths through the moments of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety that will arise in the coming weeks and months. You are not alone.

It has been a great experience working with Scott and Derek, and I thank them for the opportunity to be part of this extraordinary community. I’m sure I’ll see you all around!

Be Well and Be Safe,

Katie O’Connell – First-Ever CMEpalooza Intern 😊

It’s CMEpalooza Week! Here’s What You Need to Know

In so many, many ways, it’s been a month like no other. We’ve had to change pretty much every routine in our lives in a manner that would have seemed unfathomable even weeks ago. I find myself zigzagging around the neighborhood like I’m coming off a 2-week bender as I try to avoid getting too close to anyone. I voluntarily took on an art project this weekend to make a mask out of an old t-shirt. Yes, me, the guy who jokes he was the first person to get a “G” in high school art class because I am about as crafty as, err, someone who is not at all crafty. My DIY mask looks like crap, but it works (sort of).

Yet with all the chaos in our lives, CMEpalooza is perhaps the lone “normal” thing left for some of us. It’s nothing more than dumb luck that we were already a virtual meeting and we already had faculty who could participate from just about anywhere before our world came crashing down. Our faculty had all committed to our Spring agenda before the worst of the Covid-19 crisis hit, and they’ve fortunately all stayed with us (thanks to all of them). It’s almost been business as usual across the board.

I know it’s been a bit of a personal salvation to be able to turn to the blog and lean on our panelists, sponsors, and other friends when things get a bit too heavy, to be able to turn to CMEpalooza to help breathe and calm myself down a bit. We hope that we’ve brought a smile and sense of calm to your lives, at least a little, in this past month and that our Spring broadcast from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET this Wednesday, April 15, will help you feel a little bit normal again too.

We’ll have some more specifics coming up in the next 2 days to help you navigate through things, but here are a few tips to help you settle in to join us on Wednesday:

  1. If you haven’t done so already check out the full Spring agenda. Yes, you’ll be hearing a good deal throughout the day about how Covid-19 is impacting our industry and will continue to do so in the near future, but we also have some sessions planned where you may not hear much about it at all. I think we can all agree that sometimes we just need a break from all the talk about the current health pandemic to focus on other things that are going on in the world.
  2. There is no pre-registration or forms to fill out to watch any of our sessions. Just go to LIVE tab to tune in. It’s all free, as it always has been. Maybe you’ve got a fancy office setting like Derek with a TV and a Roku Stick so you can beam our sessions on the big screen while you “work.” That’d be pretty cool.
  3. If you miss any of our sessions, fear not. They land in the Archives pretty quick (like, within an hour).
  4. We’ll be using Poll Everywhere for several of our sessions to bring some interactivity to our panels. You’ll be able to participate either on your laptop/desktop through their website (www.polleverywhere.com) or on your tablet/phone through their app (you can download it here). The meeting code this Spring is cmepalooza000 (we’ll remind you on Wednesday).
  5. We’ve got a few new features we’ll be introducing this year. I am personally giddy with anticipation for the debut of CMEpalooza Stretch. I won’t tell you when it’s happening. Just know that Derek is really, really excited about it too (Note from Derek: I am…less excited about it than Scott.)
  6. If you have a few minutes and want to check out the “best of the best” in CME, poke through the work our Sponsors have been doing. Crises often beget innovation, and I’m proud to see some of the education our community has been able to share in recent weeks to the knowledge-starved medical community and general public.
  7. Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, construction paper, papier mache, and paper airplanes lying around. Because, you know, the paper product line is going to be the first thing to go in time of national emergency. I really don’t get this one.

CMEpalooza Company Spotlight – Today at 11 a.m. ET

Don’t forget that we’ll be hosting a special, live CMEpalooza Company Spotlight broadcast this morning from 11-11:30 a.m. ET. Joining me will be three of the wise men from Educational Measures to talk about the challenges of the live, virtual conference.

To view this free broadcast, just go to our LIVE tab – we’ll start the broadcast right at the top of the hour. No need to register or fill out anything beforehand. Just drop in and listen. We’ll even take questions as we go along.

And hey, if your organization likes this concept and wants to work with us to develop a broadcast of your own, just shoot me an email. We’re happy to keep this going beyond our CMEpalooza Spring broadcast next week.

So What Comes Next?

As we head into week 4 of our national hibernation, I’m noticing a few new trends. Yes, my social media feeds are still primarily dealing with the day-to-day of current Covid-19 pandemic, but I am also slowly seeing the emergence people who are wondering what’s going to happen when we finally get a handle on things.

Will we revert back to our old ways, packing sidewalks, restaurants, and arenas like nothing ever happened? (I doubt it, at least not right away). Will wearing masks in public become a regular occurrence? (doubt that too). Will we react more quickly the next time we’re threatened with a health pandemic? (I assume so).

And then there are those of us in the CME industry trying to crystal ball our future. Look, I know that there are a lot of us who rely heavily on face-to-face meetings for a significant chunk of our revenue. We’re all perhaps crossing our fingers that in the summer, fall, and foreseeable future we’ll be able to hold all of these live events that have been planned for months and months, and that people will once again be willing to travel thousands of miles to attend them.

I suspect that that is a bit overly optimistic.

For years, there has been a general reluctance to offer much in the way of live, online, accredited education for healthcare providers. As the theory goes, our learners already spend a considerable number of hours at live, in-person meetings/conferences, so there is no way they would be interested in a live, online conference. Plus, how do you replace the value of face-to-face interactions?

I’m not sure I have the answer to that second issue (though I have some ideas), but I think the last few weeks have shown us that that first theory may not necessarily be true. Admittedly, these are unusual circumstances, and there are quite a few healthcare providers who work off the front lines of emergency care who have more time on their hands than usual right now. I mean, I have been able to schedule calls with some rather prominent clinicians on the same day as I reach out to them. When was the last time that happened?

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve watched parts of several live, online events geared at least in part of the healthcare community. The meeting organizers are consistently overwhelmed with participation, which has typically numbered in the thousands. I suspect some of the attendees have simply been those in the general public who are interested in high-level education, but you have to also believe that a number of providers are also watching, as often evidenced by the types of questions being fielded from the audience.

So what does that all mean for the future? Well, it could, could mean that we’ll need to start looking at hybrid solutions for live events. There are likely going to be lots of people who are leery of airline travel, especially international travel, which is going to put a damper on attendance for some of our larger conferences. So as live attendance takes a hit, how do you supplement things with an online solution?

Join us from 11-11:30 a.m. this Wednesday, April 8 for a special CMEpalooza Company Spotlight broadcast where I’ll be joined by the bright minds from Educational Measures. We’ll take a look at what the future holds for live, online conferences and steps that we may all need to take to adapt at least in the short term to best meet the educational needs of our learners. Since this may be a big part of all of our futures, it’s something we all need to learn more about.

 

 

CMEopoly Prize Winners

Typically, when we have a random drawing to select the winners of our special sponsor events, it’s a BIG production. We hire entertainers (Right Said Fred was the headliner last fall), provide a lavish spread of food and drink, and generally party for hours and hours. The cops have shut our party down at 4 a.m. twice in the last few years, but hey, we don’t really care. It’s the event our tireless team of crack interns looks forward to most each season.

So it was, alas, somewhat anticlimactic this week when the prize drawing was confined to my home office. I couldn’t even muster the energy to blast I’m Too Sexy on my speakers, but you can do so if you really want to.

Nonetheless, we have several happy winners, each of whom won $100 Amazon gift cards. Here they are:

  • Sabrina Stambaugh — Manager, Physician Development, Baptist Memorial Health Care
  • Carrie Roberts — Director, Continuing Medical Education: Utah Region Steward Health Care
  • Karen Chiarini — Education Events Coordinator, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
  • Jesse Henry — Consultant, Learning, OhioHealth Learning Continuing Medical Education
  • Stephanie Staggs — Program Coordinator, Graduate & Continuing Medical Education, College of Medicine, Texas A&M University

If you are at all curious about the correct answers to each question, you can find them by clicking here.

 

What’s Old is New Again: The Return of CMEpalooza Company Spotlight

For anyone who has been following CMEpalooza since our early days , you’ll know that every year, we try out new things. Occasionally, these succeed, but more often, they fail to garner any traction and simply get buried beneath the tombstone of “Derek’s Dumb Ideas” (my failed ideas, of course, were brilliant but simply before their time).

One of these ideas was something we called CMEpalooza Company Spotlight. The premise was simple – we would work with an organization tied to CME and plan a 30-minute broadcast that spoke to a fundamental issue of interest to the CME community while also highlighting what that organization was doing to address that issue. We even gave away two free opportunities to jump start interest, which I think we both thought were pretty interesting and added value both to the featured organization as well as our audience.

Alas, no one was willing to actually, you know, pay for the Spotlight and so these simply went away.

Until now.

That’s right folks, we’re bringing back CMEpalooza Company Spotlight for a special event next Wednesday, April 8 from 11-11:30 a.m ET. I’ll be joined by some of the fine folks at Educational Measures to talk about the challenges of transitioning from live, in-person conferences to live, online events. I think we have all already seen some of the struggles our community is having as we are being forced to adapt to unfamiliar technology, so we’ll be focusing on how to proactively avoid some of the common pitfalls of live, online education so that we can maximize the effectiveness of our education.

We’ll be broadcasting this special event on our LIVE page. There is no registration required and attendance is, of course, free for everyone. We hope to have some time to answer questions from the audience as well (feel free to submit any burning questions in the comments section below in advance of the broadcast if you want to).

Please Excuse the Technical Difficulties

What to do to keep sane, week 2.

So like most of you, things have been a little bit cramped in the Kober household these last few days. Compounding the issue last week was that it was the scheduled Spring Break for my 9-year-old, so there was no pretending that any learning was going to happen. We made the best of the nice days by driving out into the hills of Pennsylvania to do some pretty serious hiking (it’s easy to social distance when you literally see 2 other people each hour).

On those not-so-nice days, while my son learned how to set up video chats with his friends while playing some game called Roblox, I decided to do some market research while keeping abreast of what’s happening with Covid-19.

I managed to check out three live broadcasts, each with a different focus, each using a different delivery mechanism. Here is what happened:

Broadcast 1: Platform unknown, but looked and interfaced like GoToWebinar. One presenter on video, one moderator without video, and slides. Video quality was decent, audio was clear. All was well until suddenly, about 45 minutes in, the presenter lost his connection. 30 seconds went by. Then 60. Still, nothing. The moderator had no choice but to end the webinar kind of abruptly. Takeaway for you: If you can, try to avoid single presenter sessions online. If you “lose” your speaker, you are lost.

Broadcast 2: Zoom broadcast through a proprietary link. This was more along the lines of a professional development activity, given by a colleague I’ve been friendly with for many years. What I did not realize is that all of the attendees would be on screen and would be expected to offer their input into the topics. The live broadcast started at 8 p.m. ET so I wasn’t as perfectly groomed as I usually am during the day (a shirt without stains is about what I consider “perfectly groomed”). Video and audio was OK. There were only three of us there so super casual conversation. The moderator suddenly lost her audio for about 90 seconds halfway through, but figured out how to get it back. I’d send you the link to this exciting broadcast, but well, I don’t want to. Takeaway for you: Let your audience know in advance if there is any chance they are going to end up on screen. It’s not a pleasant surprise.

Broadcast 3: Zoom broadcast through Facebook Live. This one had 4 speakers, all on video. No slides. One of the speakers had a ton of trouble with her connection. Her audio cut out frequently and she lost her feed for several chunks of time. The other speakers kept trying to bring her into the conversation, but it got a bit frustrating once everyone realized that her connection just wasn’t reliable. Takeaway for you: If you can, test your presenters’ AV setup in advance to try to minimize any issues midstream when you are live.

So basically, there were technical issues with all three of the broadcasts that I watched, which honestly was not totally unexpected. In the online setting, there is undoubtedly a loss of control. Things happen, and there often isn’t an easy solution.

Derek and I have learned over the years how to troubleshoot a lot of the issues that crop up during our live broadcasts, and yet there are always at least 1 or 2 sessions each time around where we can’t get a panelist’s video to work, or there is an echo we can’t isolate, or someone simply keeps dropping off the broadcast. Firewall issues? Poor Internet connection? Hardware compatibility? Someone doesn’t want to own up to having a bad hair day? You can’t always know.

After each CMEpalooza, we ask viewers to fill out a short survey to give us feedback into how we’re doing. Inevitably, we’ll get a handful of people who will say, “It was hard to pay attention to XYZ session because there was this buzzing noise” or “Can’t you do something to make people’s audio louder?” We are usually well aware of these issues – they are annoying to us too – but sometimes they are out of our control or beyond our level of production expertise. I suspect there may be even more grumbling for anyone who is charging for access to their broadcasts when the quality isn’t perfect, so if that’s you, you’d better be prepared with a stock answer to those who are going to whine.

(note from Derek: trust me, we are aware when there are audio/video issues. A little piece of me dies inside every time someone’s audio glitches. My laptop crashed during a session last year and I was mad about it for days.)

During our recent AV tests with various Spring panelists (which I must say have been completely bereft of any major problems), I’ve been asked a couple of times if I thought the added burden to overall Web bandwidth was going to affect the technical quality of our broadcasts. The answer is very simple.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I mean it. I don’t have a clue. Obviously, we hope it won’t, but if it does, there really isn’t anything we can do about it. Bill Gates stopped taking my calls many years ago.

Just like always, we’ll do the best we can to troubleshoot, and we’ve got enough experience that we’re always able to salvage something meaningful from our sessions even if there is a partial panelist meltdown. We’ll keep on striving, just like everyone else, for that perfect game. It’ll come eventually.

Oh, and one more thing: Don’t forget that you only have a few more days for your CMEopoly submission. Entries are due this Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET. You can get everything you need by clicking on this link.

A New Sponsor Event: CMEopoly

Week 2 (or more) of the virtual workplace is kicking in for most of us. Hopefully everyone is settling in to some sort of regular work routine. But between video calls with the team and tedious administrative work, you are probably looking for some kind of fun distraction that doesn’t involve “Netflix recommends for you…”

Well then, my friend, you have come to the right place. Not only do we have a fun distraction for you this week, but we have a brand-new event that will even allow you to make some money for very little work and learn a bit about the CME community. Amazing, right?

Since we began rolling out our Sponsor prize events each year, the roster has typically been the same — CMEpalooza Trivial Pursuit in the Spring and CMEpalooza Bingo!! in the Fall. Why? Laziness. That’s about it.

But with the current health pandemic, I had a little bit of extra time last week to come up with a brand new idea. And so, we present to you today CMEopoly. I know, it’s not a great name. But would CMEpalopoly or CMEpaloozopoly have been better? Did Derek offer any alternate suggestions? The answer to both of those questions is shockingly one and the same…(note from Derek: This is so easy. It should be “CMonopolE”. Do I get the $500 now?)

As always, we’re giving away $500 in Amazon gift cards as prizes. Five winners will get $100 each. In the current marketplace, that could buy you a roll of toilet paper, one small bottle of Purell, and a Whatchamacalit bar (I love those).

Here is what you need to know to play CMEopoly:

  1. Click on this link to download the necessary forms. That will give you a game board, the full list of “clues” (thanks to intern Katie for her help with these), and an answer sheet.
  2. Call up our Sponsor page, where you can get information about all of the CMEpalooza Spring sponsors as well as links to their website (this is vitally important since you’ll need them to get all of the answers)
  3. You earn one entry into our prize drawing for every color bundle you complete. There are seven bundles in all. We came up one short of filling the board, so Derek asked me to insert something silly in there. You can complete the answer sheet for one color bundle, two bundles, or all seven.
  4. While you can earn seven entries, you won’t be able to win seven times. Limit one prize per person.
  5. When you complete your answer form, email it to me at scott@medcasewriter.com. Make sure to include your name and professional affiliation so that when we announce that you’ve won, everyone can be sufficiently jealous.

Unlike the McDonald’s Monopoly game scandal from the early 2000s (I highly suggest HBO’s recent McMillions docuseries if you want a 5-hour binge show), CMEopoly is not rigged. Every entrant has the same chance of winning. These chances are generally pretty good, but vary depending on the number of entrants.

Entries are due on Wednesday, April 1 at 5 p.m. ET. Now get cracking.

Making Yourself Useful

With the world turning upside down right now, I think a lot of us are harkening back to the last time when we suddenly had to adjust to a temporary professional “new normal.” I’m referring, of course, to 9/11. This was obviously a very different sort of event, but I’m seeing a lot of parallels in how many of us are dealing with the aftermath.

During 9/11, I was still working in my “first career” as a newspaper reporter in central Illinois (remember my origin story from a few weeks ago?). I think I was either supposed to have the day off or maybe I was going into the office a little bit later that afternoon, but as soon as the Twin Towers collapsed, I rushed into the office, found the editor-in-chief and asked, “How can I help?”

For the next few days, pretty much all of the reporters on staff, regardless of their usual beats, became news reporters. I spent the afternoon of 9/11 on the phone with former area residents now living in New York City. I remember my main interview was with a business executive who lived in a high-rise apartment with a direct view of the Twin Towers. He was obviously stunned with everything going on, but he was extremely patient with me in describing as best he could what was happening. I still have a copy of the newspaper from that day somewhere in the house. It wasn’t a great story, but I am proud of it because it was useful to the newsroom and hopefully to the broader community.

The next several days were somewhat less chaotic but the attitude was the same. People put aside any grudges or distaste for their jobs and came in with the same attitude – “How can I help?”

Which brings me back to our current situation.

I assume by now we are all working from home. For those of you who aren’t used to this, it’s likely a pretty big adjustment. You can’t talk to the person next to you in your cubicle. You can’t take a 5-minute break to walk into your boss’ office and complain about how coworker X is totally incompetent and you hate working with her. For extroverts like Derek who thrive on social connections, it can be a bit isolating (Note from Derek: Clearly, Scott is joking here. I was social distancing before social distancing was cool.)

Compounding the problem is that some of you may not have a lot of work to do. While many organizations are busy figuring out how to transition their scheduled live events into online meetings, I suspect there is likely a slowdown for some people. Are you a meeting planner who spends most of your day coordinating with live venues for upcoming conferences? Probably not a whole lot to do that applies to your usual role.

There is no playbook for how organizations deal with unexpected crises. It’s a time for creative, on-the-fly solutions where the team rolls up its sleeves and individually asks, “How can I help?” There is some great work going on in the CME community right now as we are all being forced to problem solve. I spoke with someone yesterday whose organization managed to turn a live 2-day meeting into an online event within 72 hours. They lost a few registrations but also picked up some new learners. It was a total team effort and it was a real accomplishment because it worked!

This is unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks. I just spent the last 10 minutes teaching my 9-year-old son about compound fractions because he couldn’t hear his teacher on the video explanation she posted. I may not be 7/4 as productive as I usually am, but that’s OK (yes, you all see what I did there). Just like you are, we are figuring out as we go how this is all going to work.

So for anyone worried about stepping out of your comfort zone these next few weeks, don’t be. Asking the simple question of, “How can I help?” is not only going to give you a sense of purpose, a sense of “I still matter,” but it’s also hopefully going to bring you a level of personal satisfaction as you acquire new skills and overcome some pretty significant hurdles. Maybe you’ll be asked to work with new people. Maybe you’ll be tasked with something totally unfamiliar to you. Maybe you’ll just be asked to “sit tight” for a while.

There is still light somewhere at the end of the tunnel, and we will eventually get back to our usual rhythms and routines. In the meantime, embrace the change. It’ll feel good, I promise.