Pros and Cons of Free CME

CMEList February 12, 2019

Free CME activities are a popular option for many physicians looking to complete their CME requirements. At the surface, it seems like the best option for every physician; being able to earn CME credits for free and often times quickly and conveniently. However, there are many drawbacks to free CME courses as well that may make you decide that alternatives are a better option for you.

Consider these pros and cons of free CME activities to determine whether or not free CME activity is ideal for you or whether you should seek out an alternative CME activity.

Pros of Free CME

Free CME is Free!

One of the most blatant advantages of Free CME activities is that it is free! This is especially a benefit for physicians who received no CME allowance or a below average CME allowance. One of the biggest complaints physicians have about having to participate in CME is that it can be expensive. Free CME activities help eliminate this problem.

Can Be Completed Quickly

Another major complaint physicians have about having to meet CME requirements is that it can be very time intensive. Physicians already have extremely busy schedules so the time needed to complete their CME requirements is often viewed as a major nuisance to their everyday lives and schedule.

A benefit of free CME activities is that they can often be completed relatively completely quickly for CME credits compared to more expensive alternatives such as paid board review courses or CME conferences. ScientiaCME courses, for example, take on average 20 minutes to an hour to complete for CME credits.

Online Convenience

As mentioned, big complaint physicians have about CME is that it is an inconvenience. A benefit of many free CME activities provide is the online convenience of being accessible on multiple devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets. ScientiaCME’s online CME courses can be completed on multiple electronic devices, allowing you to learn at the time and place that best suits your needs.

Contains Focused Content

The content in free CME activities tends to be extremely focused on a specific topic within different medical specialties. Free CME is a great option if you want to gain more knowledge within a singular specific topic within your specialty.

Cons of Free CME

Low Number of CME Credits Offered

A drawback to free CME activities is that since they are free they tend to offer far fewer CME credits than pricier alternatives. Free CME activities typically offer anywhere between 0.5 - 4 CME credits upon completion. The BoardVitals CME  Bundle, is a much pricier alternative but it offers up to 100 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM dependent on the specialty you select.

These types of options are likelier the better choice for physicians who received a substantial CME allowance or physicians who do not want to have to a high number of different activities to meet their CME requirements. The BoardVitals CME Bundle will offer enough CME credits in most cases where you do not have to participate in additional CME activities to completely meet your requirements.

Can Become More Time Consuming

Given the small number of CME credits typically offered by free CME activities, it may become time-consuming to complete your CME requirements if you solely rely on free CME to get you there. If you decide to only use free CME courses, you will likely find yourself having to complete a high number of activities to completely meet your requirements. Yes, as previously mentioned the activities can be completed in a quick amount of time, but the sheer amount of activities you will need to meet your requirements will add up. Given this, free CME is likelier a better option if you are trying to save time earning the few CME requirements you have left after earning most of them from paid activities.

Pharma Sponsorship Influences Content

Another drawback of free CME is that the activities are usually pharma-sponsored. Many physicians see this as a negative because they fear the content has been influenced by the pharmaceutical company to favor their proprietary drugs. Physicians want their CME activities to be unbiased and have the knowledge gained from these activities have the intent of making them a better physician to deliver the best patient care as possible. The issue of pharma-sponsored CME is such a concern that Congress decided to hold hearings to investigate whether drug companies are using CME activities to alter physicians’ judgment regarding physicians’ treatment decisions.

Lacks Content Depth

As mentioned earlier, free CME tends to be very specific in the content it covers. While this is great for some, some physicians may be looking for broader programs that will expand their knowledge on a wide range of topics within a specialty. For example, the BoardVitals Dermatology CME Bundle covers a wide range of Dermatology topics including Surgical and Cosmetic Dermatology, Basic Science and Immunology, Bullous, Neoplasms, Dermatopathology, and many more.