What is a CME Allowance? Benefits, Controversies, and How to Use It

CMEList December 19, 2020

Every year, many physicians are given a CME allowance by their organization or hospital. A CME allowance is a fixed dollar amount that is given out annually to physicians to use to meet their CME requirements. According to Sullivan Cotter and Associates Inc., a leading healthcare consultancy firm, the average CME allowance for physicians is between $3500 - $5000. While there are some controversies around CME allowances, this employee benefit is designed to give physicians an opportunity to meet necessary CME requirements and improve their own skills and practice without having to pay out of their own pocket.

Benefits of a CME allowance

A CME allowance is an employee benefit that allows physicians to earn CME credits for “free”. Most physicians are required to earn CME credits annually to meet their State CME requirements and specific board requirements. Often times the CME activities such as online CME courses or live CME conferences needed to meet these requirements can be expensive. Thus, a CME allowance allows them to meet necessary CME and MOC requirements without having to use their own money.

Also, for physicians that don’t need to meet annual CME requirements, a CME allowance is a great opportunity to broaden your skills and receive free training. The CME activities CME allowances can be used on are great resources for expanding your knowledge around specific and relevant specialties and topics. A purpose of CME and MOC requirements is so that physicians are held accountable for developing skills and knowledge that will lead to improved patient satisfaction and outcomes. A CME allowance gives physicians to develop these skills and knowledge and in turn improve their practice at no personal cost.

Controversies around CME Allowance

While CME allowances vary, many physicians state that the amount they receive from their organization does not meet the costs needed to meet their CME requirements. With costs of CME activities, both online and live, increasing, it is becoming more difficult to complete all necessary CME and MOC requirements with a CME allowance. Costs for activities have gone up due to many factors including the cost of putting an event together, the cost for getting an activity accredited, developing content, and other factors that go into creating an effective CME activity.

Unfortunately, as costs for activities has gone up CME allowance have remained relatively stagnant. For example, according to the Merritt Hawkins Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives, the average CME allowance given to physicians in 2011/2012 was $3,391. Merrit Hawkins also reports that the average allowance given to physicians in 2016/2017 was $3,613. This is only a 6.5% increase in CME allowance in a 5-year span. If a CME allowance does not meet the costs of activities needed to meet CME requirements, it negates the biggest benefit of having a CME allowance.

How to Use Your CME Allowance

There are many ways to use your CME allowance, but one of the most popular options is using it on a CME course that gives you a free gift card back. CME with gift card offers give physicians a chance to spend their CME allowance on an online CME course and receive a free gift card. Often times these prepaid cards can be up to $2,500 Amazon, Visa, Apple gift cards, and more.

In addition, CME gift card offers tend to offer enough CME credits to fulfill a physician’s annual CME requirements. This helps avoid the growing pain physicians have of receiving a stipend that is less than the cost of the CME activities need to meet their requirements.

One of the most popular CME gift card offers is the BoardVitals CME Pro Plus Bundle. This comprehensive online board review course is offered in over 30 specialties and offers physicians up to 100 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM. In addition, physicians can get up to a $2,500 bonus Amazon gift card or Visa prepaid card and a 2-year subscription with this offer. 

BoardVitals also gives physicians also have the option to customize their CME gift card bundle. With the "build your own" feature you can enter in your CME allowance and get a corresponding gift card amount. For example, a CME allowance of $1,000 can get you a free $402 gift card and a 4-month subscription.

Another benefit of this course is that it is constantly updated, ensuring that physicians are up to date on the areas they are studying. Also, each question comes with detailed explanations allowing physicians to gain a full understanding of the material.

This course can be completed on your computer, phone, or tablet, making earning credits easy from both the comfort of your own home and while on the go.

Check out our BoardVitals CME Product Review for more information on the product.