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By Jordan P. Roberts, PA-C

4 Effective Techniques to Stretch Your CME Fund Further Than Ever

The CME fund. It’s not uncommon for employed clinicians to have one that renews annually. And you should want to get the most value out this pool of money. Here's how your colleagues do just that - and how you can, too.

Last Updated: August 25, 2021
4 Effective Techniques to Stretch CME Money

CME Fund Regulations

Many employed clinicians with a CME allowance face the same problems year after year. What is the best way to spend CME money? And; how can I spend it before the end of the year so I don’t lose my CME fund?

If you are employed, you might have an annual fund specifically for continuing medical education. Because your CME fund usually won’t carry over to next year, you’d be wise to make the most of your CME money every year.

The mad dash to spend your remaining CME money before year’s end catalyzes the many CME special offers (including CME with gift cards) appearing that time of year.

Your CME allowance poses two problems. First is finding the best way to spend your CME money. The other is ensuring you don’t go irreparably over budget.

The only thing even more disheartening than leaving CME money on the table is going thousands over budget and getting stuck with the rest of the bill. We never want a fellow clinician to experience either injustice. 

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Creative Ideas for Spending CME Money

Fortunately, there are many more tried-and-true methods healthcare providers use to maximize their CME allowance than we can cover here.

There are even ways that make spending thousands more than your CME fund a financial win for you.

The four(ish) we’ll discuss today are:

1. CME with gift card offers

2. Point of care medical apps

2a. Online CME discounts and promotions

3. Speak at a CME conference

4. Create your own CME

Because of the pandemic shutting down just about every medical conference, we are adding in a new technique to replace point #3 above for the time being.

If you haven’t heard of some of these, fear not.

All the strategies we describe here are established, above-board, and widely acceptable ways your colleagues make the most of their CME allowance year after year.

Furthermore, each of these techniques will leave you with a stronger clinical knowledge base and easy-to-log category 1 CME hours.

That said, be sure to know your institution’s policy on certain CME opportunities so you do get reimbursed. 

How many techniques should I try?

It can be a challenge, if not impossible, to combine all the major techniques in a single  CME year.

The beauty of some of these offers (especially the multi-year CME subscriptions) is that you don’t need to. Here’s how.

Quick question about your CME fund...

We’d really appreciate if you’d answer this anonymous, one-question survey about your CME fund if it’s applicable to you. Thanks!

CME Stipend Expiration Date Poll
Answer based on current (or most recent) place of employment

How Much Should Your CME Allowance Be?

We’ve written a more detailed answer to this question in a new post. We are also conducting our own survey to get 2021 data on your CME allowances. If you participate, you can choose to receive early access to the results before they are published. 

1. Take Advantage of CME with Gift Card Bonus Offers

A select few CME providers will effectively subsidize your CME fund by offering truly generous gift cards with your CME purchase.

We’re talking about bundles that include as many as 100 CME hours plus an Amazon gift card worth up to $2,750.

Often, CME with gift cards can also come in other forms like Visa, American Express, Home Depot, or Apple. The amount depends on the CME provider offering the gift card, but these go up to $2,750.

So where can you find one of these unicorns? One of the best we’ve come across is from world-class CME and board-prep extraordinaire, Board Vitals.

CME with Gift Card Offer #1 - BoardVitals CME Pro Plus

With CME for physicians, as well as PAs and NPs, clinicians of all kind can find something that fits their needs.

Board Vitals’ flagship specialty and general continuing medical education product, CME Pro Plus Self-Assessment with MOC activity, comes with your choice of an Amazon gift card or Prepaid Visa card – standard.

Early in 2019, Board Vitals unveiled the “choose-your-own-price-tool,” which allows you to…well, choose your own price (imagine that) based on your CME budget.

You can also customize your CME subscription length (up to 24 months) and CME gift card value (up to $2,500). This can get you up to 100 category 1 CME credits.

Use this tool to see how the price you choose affects your CME gift card value here. Hint: Choosing the $4,750 option, while it may sound expensive, is actually a steal.

This has to be one of the best online CME with gift card offers ever. I haven’t found anything better, and we owe half our existence to finding them.

CME with gift card board vitals
Click for details and gift card calculator based on your CME fund

How Does CME Pro Plus Work?

Great question. You answer board-quality, consistently updated, relevant-to-your-specialty questions at your own pace, claiming category 1 CME along the way.

This is completely online CME that you can do on your smartphone, tablet, or computer anytime you want.

The questions and explanations are updated in real time via cloud technology so you know you are always getting the latest information.

What’s the catch? Like any quality product, it’s the price tag.

Also like any quality product, you won’t regret buying it. But we can help soften (or eliminate) that financial blow.

Purchase this $4,750 beast of a board review or CME product and get a free $2,500 Amazon gift card or Visa Prepaid card in return with your CME.

And use promo code MODERN10 at checkout to save 10 percent.

Follow the link to see if they offer CME in your specialty (which they probably do). 

Board Vitals Most Popular CME with Gift Card Bundles

This is just a small sampling of what Board Vitals has available to you.

Because they have been working with us to help you get the best CME around, we consistently score our readers the best prices on their CME.

We encourage you to take a better discount if you find it, but there aren’t many (if any) like those that intermittently appear at the top of the page. 

If you aren’t sure how this fits into your CME budget, check out our end of year CME survival guide to find out.

On the other hand, if you want to learn more about their CME Pro Plus, visit BoardVitals for yourself.

There, you can view options for your specialty and remaining CME budget before purchasing.

CME with Gift Card Offer #2 - Oakstone Practical Reviews & CMEinfo Insider

There are many other offers of CME with gift cards to help you maximize your CME allowance.

Oakstone Medical Publishing offers clinicians the choice of CME with an Amazon gift card worth up to $2,500 when you purchase a subscription to CMEinfo Insider (up to $2,000 gift card) or Practical Reviews (up to $500 gift card).

Just don’t show up expecting a free lunch. They aren’t pharmaceutical reps, after all (hey-oh). Here’s the price breakdown:

Practical Reviews

12 Month Subscription: $200 Amazon Gift Card – $599

24 Month Subscription: $500 Amazon Gift Card – $1,998

CMEinfo Insider

12 Month Subscription + $1,000 Amazon Gift Card: $1,999

24 Month Subscription + $1,500 Amazon Gift Card: $2,999

36 Month Subscription + $2,500 Amazon Gift Card: $4,749

Oakstone is known for having extremely well-curated collections of some of the best online CME anywhere.

With CMEinfo Insider, you’ll get fresh content in every specialty they cover each month, unlimited CME credit earning potential, exclusive video lectures, and more.

See for yourself.

They clearly do not scrimp on quality of the information, delivery, and faculty. Guess what? You smart medical experts are expensive, and this is reflected in the total price.

Don’t take that to mean you won’t come out ahead. That’s because on a per-credit basis, the costs drops based on your earnings.

Additionally, the two or three year options allow you to earn CME next year while freeing up your entire CME budget for CME that’s even more exciting.

CME Fund Example

Let’s imagine you have $1,000 remaining in your CME fund.

If you buy a one-year subscription to CMEinfo Insider for $1,999, you are essentially getting an otherwise admittedly pricey CME program for free.

$1999 – $1000 CME money –> $999 out of pocket) + free $1000 Amazon gift card = net gain of $1.

Don’t spent it all in one place. Actually, you’ll have to, so forget I said that.

With $2,000 remaining of your CME allowance, it gets even better.

Your employer picks up the entire cost of your one-year CMEinfo Insider ($1999) or two-year Practical Reviews  ($1998) subscription.

This time, your employer keeps the $1 or $2. Administration is overjoyed and awards themselves massive bonuses. 

Meanwhile, you walk away with $1,000 to spend on Amazon. Not to mention the adoration of your CFO.

Either way, you’ll have access to high-quality, relevant category 1 CME for your specialty for one or two entire years.

Another advantage of online CME?

Learning at your own pace, via your media preferences, wherever you want. Anyone know a beach with Wi-Fi?

CME money on my mind
CME money on my mind

CME with Gift Card Offer #3 - Audio Digest

Audio Digest is a hugely popular option for CME among healthcare professionals. Additionally, it has the option to get a free Amazon gift card with your CME purchase.

With content in 14 specialties, there’s something for most healthcare professionals. Subscribe to AudioDigest here for an extra $100 gift card.

Compare Audio Digest CME v BoardVitals to see which is right for you.

2. Use CME Money for iPad & Medical App Deals

In addition to everything else here; speaking at a conference, ordering online CME with a gift card option, and writing your own CME with an accredited provider, you can also use your CME money for certain point-of-care medical apps.

Using any of the CME with gift card offers can be combined to get you a free tablet, too.

Just spend the Amazon or Visa Prepaid card, which can be up to $2,750, on the piece of technology that works best for you.

Not only is getting an iPad with CME a pretty sweet perk, but it’s also practical.

There are dozens of CME-awarding medical apps can be used on a tablet or smartphone at the point-of-care, which makes the gift card more utilitarian than luxurious. Feel free to use that in case you need to convince a hospital administrator that you’re not the crook in this situation.

2a. Discounts & Seasonal CME Sales

With the rise of both the volume and quality of online medical education, competition has become fierce.

This is great for clinicians, because it means they have more choice in where to spend their CME allowance.

Not only are there more good online CME offers available, but the frequency of fun and innovate in-person CME events is also increasing. Or at least it was.

But more to the point, many of the best online CME providers offer exclusive discounts for certain partner audiences.

This is like when your friend shares a discount link with you, and you both get something out of it.

Except we’re your friend and you get to choose something that’s actually useful.

Referral Awards for CME

For example (and for a little self-promotion), we at Modern MedEd have various affiliate partnerships that benefit our readers (that’s you!).

One way we do that is through our CME reviews series packed with helpful insights, because we actually tried the CME ourselves.

A notable example is your getting $25 off a year long subscription to Hippo Education’s CME podcast series, Reviews And Perspectives, or RAP, just by clicking here (for Primary Care RAP).

If urgent care (Hippo Urgent Care RAP) or pediatrics (Hippo Pediatrics RAP) is more your style, you are covered there. And yes, you still qualify for your $25 savings or Amazon gift card.

If you like it, refer your own friends and make $25 each time one joins you.

Want another audio CME option with even more  specialty choices? Here’s an extra $100 gift card from Audio Digest when you make your first purchase of $399 or more.

Full disclosure, we may earn a commission on any sales we generate. So it’s a win-win.

And even if it’s not the right time for you to purchase, we’ll always be grateful that you’ve come here to read our work. Seriously, thank you.

Get a Free Trial Before Spending Your CME Fund

Most of these companies also offer a free trial or money-back guarantee for those who aren’t totally sure about making that big purchase.

It’s totally understandable, and just plain smart, if you ask us, especially for new customers.

This way you can try out the product and won’t kick yourself (or us) if it’s not up to your expectations. Worst case scenario: you get to log free category 1 CME hours.

Specifically, Board Vitals offers a free trial consisting of a limited selection of items from each of their CME question banks to ensure that it meets your needs before you commit.

Here’s their collection of free board-review questions. You can also purchase CME with these question banks.

Oakstone offers a similar money-back “pass guarantee” on purchases of CMEinfo Insider (which can be used as a board review resource).

However, free trials mean you won’t have access to the advanced analytics and CME tracking features, which – trust me – you’ll want.

Of course, do your research, too. As boring as it may be to read the fine print, it could save us both a headache because the world is subject to change, nuance exists, yadda yadda yadda.

You can also sign up to get the super secret, extra exclusive offers that are only available to our email subscribers.

Ok, self-promotion time is over today. Thanks for indulging me.

3. Speak at a CME Conference (virtual or when live CME returns)

There are two types of people in this world: those who love speaking in front of a crowd, and those who’d rather be dead. The same is true of clinicians.

However, I encourage you to reject any personal dogma you hold telling you that public speaking is not for you

We’ve shown you how speaking can be a lucrative side gig in the past. Luckily enough, it can also be a nice way to (maybe) get your conference fees covered.

Most reputable conferences will at least waive the cost of registration for their speakers. Some might also pitch in for certain expenses like airfare, food, hotel, and an honorarium.

It is still a good idea to attend local and national conferences even if you aren’t speaking. The networking itself can earn you exponential returns for yourself and your career. 

If you want to improve your public speaking skills before doing the real thing, get Dale Carnegie’s timeless book on public speaking for less than the cost of a propranolol prescription.

4. Write Your Own CME

This one is a good option if you are the type who enjoys researchingwriting and teaching others about your areas of clinical expertise.

Clinicians are major sources of medical information for these CME providers.

Most of them are almost always looking for good healthcare professionals who can also write, speak, or deliver a good performance on camera.

Why not you?

Potential Drawbacks to CME Writing

One drawback is that you may earn category 2 CME credit for this work, even if you are creating what will eventually be category 1 CME.

Although physicians may qualify for self assessment CME credit for test item writing. Sorry PAs and NPs. 

I know, it seems a little illogical that creating awesome category 1 CME only nets you category 2. At least it did for me, but that’s life.

Check with your certifying body or licensing board for more details before claiming credit because they may tell you something else (or audit you!). 

However, you may be able to earn some category 2 CME now and claim the sweet category 1 CME for free at a later date.

That’s because once your work becomes accredited, it’s usually a part of a larger program. You may be granted access for free as an additional perk of being a (paid, usually) contributor.

For instance, I was on Hippo Education’s Primary Care RAP CME podcast in the past, and enjoyed this exact set-up.

In fact, I still enjoy listening to my fellow contributors’ work, as well as earning category 1 CME credit from it.

Here are a few CME companies that are pretty much always looking for qualified contributors.

Using Your CME Fund for Technology

Physicians, PAs, and NPs are increasingly using iPads and other technology to keep up with the demands of the job.

Not to mention technology is becoming more of a part of healthcare (in a good way) with the rise of point-of-care medical apps.

That means devices like iPads are important to learn to use, just like other technology like POCUS.

If you want an iPad instead of the gift card, you can find places that allow you to choose a free iPad as a thank-you bonus for purchasing their CME.

Although, why not just get the gift card with your CME and use that to get your iPad? Another win-win. We’re all about that here.

You’d have the latest iPad, a year’s worth of CME, and money left over on your Amazon gift card to do with as you please.

Plus, you’ll be able to do your CME on your cool new iPad, really increasing the value (and pragmatism) of your purchases.

Make the Most of Your CME Fund

You now have a few tools and techniques that can stretch that measly CME budget a bit further.

Even if you have no CME allowance, you can now feel like you do!

You can travel to new places for those great destination CME medical conferences, use discounts to increase your CME fund’s value, or get paid to learn while creating CME for your colleagues. 

For a comprehensive listing of the offers in this article and more, check out our list of all the CME with gift card offers you could possibly want.

Re Published: December 3, 2020

Originally published July 22, 2018

Further Reading

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