How to Spend CME Money in a Pandemic
Last Updated 8 October 2020
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4 CME Money Ideas in the Times of COVID
Well I gotta say, this is not an article I was ever hoping to write. But because I’ve seen this topic come up over and over again in professional circles, on social media, and online, here we are.
I’ll be drawing on some of my own experience as the leader of a CME committee and the owner of a website that depends a lot on finding you good CME.
One of the most glaring changes to continuing medical education because of the pandemic is the lack of in-person CME conferences. I typically get my annual credits through a combination of live CME conferences and online CME options, many of which I’ve written about before.
For me at least, the primary benefit of live CME is socializing, seeing some of my best friends again, and visiting a new (or different) city. I always negotiated a more-than-healthy CME budget back in my days of practicing, so it was not unusual for me to attend two or three out-of-state CME events a year, all 100% reimbursed.
However, since traveling and socializing have become taboo, dangerous, or borderline illegal,* not to mention the institutional hesitation to spend money in a pandemic, live, in-person CME conferences have not been an option for most of us this year.
So, given the bonkers year that it has been, what’s the best way to spend your CME money during 2020’s pandemic?
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*Editorial Note: I’m being hyperbolic here, but don’t take it the wrong way. I’m all for social distancing (even in normal times) and public health. Neither of us needs any more workplace hazards right now.
1. Online CME Subscriptions
As if this answer wasn’t obvious enough. Online CME will probably be even more popular than ever this year as other options are limited and medical professionals do what they can to protect themselves. With a plethora of options available, how do you know which to choose?
You might be interested in a free gift card with your CME, which are popular around the end of the year for what I hope are obvious reasons. We’ve compiled an ever-updated list of the top online CME with gift card offers, but we’ll summarize the best ones below.
If you would rather forego the free gift card, that is an option with all of these CME subscriptions as well.
Online CME with Gift Card Bundle
If you’ve been here before, you know we have what is arguably the most popular and comprehensive lists of CME with gift card offers around. It is updated throughout the year, so by the fall, it’s also the most-up-to-date list of CME with gift card bundles you can find.
And by the way, rather than just add “in 2020” to the end of all our old posts, we actually do update these with the top offers for the current year. That, or make new posts like this one.
There is a lot of laziness on the other side of the screen in other corners of the internet. Just saying.
Board Vitals CME Pro Plus
Board Vitals CME Pro Plus is consistently one of the most popular CME with gift card subscriptions you can buy.
Last year, their offer was a free Amazon or Apple gift card worth up to $2,000 with your CME purchase. This year, they’ve swapped out the Apple gift card for American Express, and upped the maximum amount you can now get to a whopping $2,500. That will run you $4,750, but will get you two years’ access.
Note that you can get a two-year subscription and $2,000 gift card for as little as $3,800.
In addition to this generous incentive, they have also updated their user platform, and it looks good. Not only that, but the CME content is updated just about daily by a team of almost-as-good-looking medical experts, so you know you are really getting the latest medical information.
Lastly, I wouldn’t have been working with this company so long if I didn’t so strongly believe in what they are offering. Same goes for any product you can find on Modern MedEd.
Oakstone CMEinfo and CMEinfo Insider
CMEinfo is a comprehensive, evidence-based online resource for clinicians of any career stage. One of the reasons this option is so popular is the frequent content updates during your subscription.
CMEinfo also wins the longest CME subscription available, with options up to 3 years. Don’t think you’ll run out of content in that amount of time, either. As soon as you think you’ve exhausted all there is, you’ll find another new pearl has been added that you can start integrating into your practice right away.
The other option here is CMEinfo Insider, which gives you always-updated access to CME in your specialty, plus 14 others. There is also the option to claim an Amazon gift card worth between $1,000 to $2,000 as a free bonus.
Subscription options range from one to three years, so get it now and you’ll be set until we’re allowed to go outside again in 2023.
Practical Reviews On-Demand CME
If you ever wanted a team of clinicians in your specialty to scour the latest journals and distill it into what you really need to know, you are not alone.
Practical Reviews does just that, with over 200 medical experts pouring over 500 journals so folks like you and I don’t have to. This is what CME is all about if you ask me. Though it’s unclear who has the best-looking medical experts between them and Board Vitals.
The Audio Digest Foundation is one of those CME institutions that has been around forever. Well, at least 70 years by their count. It’s convenient, timely, and regularly updated, just like any good continuing education. Just like the options above, it’s updated all the time, and you don’t need any new subscription to access the new content.
AudioDigest offers Amazon or Bank of America gift cards worth up to $2000, depending on the size of your purchase. Alternatively, you can select a comparable size discount if you don’t want the gift card.
You’ll also be eligible for an additional $100 on your gift card when you purchase a subscription for $400 or more through one of our links. If you spend less, then you still get extra gift card money; $50 for purchases less than $399.
2. CME at the Point of Care
Just because your summer conferences were cancelled, doesn’t mean you can’t be around people when you earn your CME. By now, you are likely familiar with a few ways you can earn CME at the bedside; Up-to-Date is probably the most common one. However, you have other, dare I say – better, options now.
VisualDx is my favorite option for CME if you want to learn as you work.
It’s a user-friendly clinical decision support system enhanced by artificial intelligence algorithms. Sounds intimidating, but I promise using it is anything but. The key features include an evidence-based, customized differential diagnosis generator with guided workup based on symptoms, chief concern, or any number of other findings.
Every search earns you 0.5 CME credits, which will add up quickly if you look things up as often as I do.
DernExpert is the even stronger version of VisualDx. Instead of coming up with a range of differential diagnoses based on a presentation, you can get a solid ddx based on an image alone.
They are able to do this because they have one of – if not the – largest medical image libraries in the world working hand-in-hand with the artificial intelligence component. I tried it out on my newborn daughter to put it to the test and well, see for yourself.
You probably already know about MDCalc. By their estimates, almost all of us have used the free resource at one time or another. But you may not have known they recently launched their own CME bundle with a $250 Amazon gift card.
After purchasing (you’ll have to get the ‘Unlimited’ plan to be eligible for the gift card), you’ll have a year to log your CME credits by using and reading the calculators you already know and trust. I’ve never not learned something by reading through one of their calcs.
3. Virtual CME Conference
Like many of you, this was the first year that I attended a virtual CME conference. This was also my first year in charge of putting the virtual CME conference together. Let me explain.
I am a co-chair of a committee that puts on two CME conferences per year. This is my second year, so I was ready to use everything I learned last year to put on a great conference. Then COVID. So my second year as CME chair felt a lot like the first.
In any case, the folks at the organization did an incredible job, the conference went smoothly and looked incredibly professional, and I got to take all the credit for their hard work. Not really, but the conference was fantastic, waaay better than I ever expected a virtual CME conference to be, and an experience I’d recommend all clinicians try at least once.
4. Book a CME Conference for 2021
At the time of writing, there are a handful of optimistic conference holders who are planning to meet next year. To their credit, they also have a virtual contingency meeting for when they all realize it’s still COVID next May.
That said, it may not be such a terrible idea to use any of this year’s remaining CME funds on a conference next year. There is a lot of uncertainty out there, even for clinicians, so I’d probably spend it while you have it in case some administrator gets the bright idea to cut everyone’s CME stipend in December.
Maybe just look for a conference with refundable rates and flexible travel arrangements if this is your choice.