Continuing Medical Education

By  Dr. N.P Senanayake

Maintaining lifelong knowledge and skills is essential for safe clinical practice.​​ Continuing medical education​​ (CME)​​ is an established method that can facilitate lifelong learning.​​ It focuses on maintaining or developing knowledge, skills and relationships to ensure competent practice​​ (1).

Continuing medical education​​ (CME)​​ is important for professional development among health personnel​​ (2).​​ Educational institutes can provide the opportunity for lifelong learning by​​ conducting a CME​​ programme of continuing medical education​​ (3).​​ The manual of​​ the International Association for​​ Medical Education​​ (the AMEE guide),​​ defines​​ CME as​​ any activity that is intended to maintain,​​ develop or increase​​ the knowledge, skills, and professional performance and relationships that a physician uses to provide services for patients, the​​ public, or the profession(4).

The primary purpose of CME is to improve doctors’​​ clinical performance that ultimately​​ influences the quality of the health outcome. ​​ In addition, it decreases professional isolation and sustains interest and confidence​​ (2).​​ CME can take the form of​​ reading journals, attending lectures and seminars, rounds, small group work, audit, informal consultations with colleagues, interactive computer programs and practice visiting.​​ 

CME has received increasing attention because of the major changes that​​ it​​ has undergone​​ in recent years -​​ in terms of​​ teaching methods, expectations​​ for results and​​ learning objectives. The​​ effectiveness of CME​​ plays a key role changing​​ the​​ practices​​ and​​ behaviour​​ of clinicians​​ (5).


CME is considered a core component of continuous professional development (CPD). The term CPD addresses a wide range of skills, including education,​​ training, audit, management, team building and communication. The terms CME and CPD​​ are often used interchangeably. In reality​​ CME contributes to​​ CPD.


Recently, the emphasis of CME has shifted from​​ improving knowledge to improving skills, performance and patient outcome through altering clinician practice behaviours​​ (6).​​ Therefore, clinicians are increasingly engaging in learning activities that provide specialist teaching beyond didactic​​ lectures​​ (7). The CPD activities of practicing clinicians are being integrated​​ with practice​​ based learning and improvement (PBLI). Consequently, newer CME methods​​ are being designed to include​​ the concept of PBLI. These CME methods use multimedia, multi-technique and multiple exposures to maximize compliance with PBLI​​ (8).​​ The​​ award of​​ CME points contributes to improved participation at clinical meetings and​​ conferences. ​​ 


Evolving professional, social and political pressures highlight the importance of lifelong learning for clinicians. Continuing medical education (CME) facilitates lifelong learning and is a fundamental factor in the maintenance of certification.​​ Successful CME must be truly continuous and not opportunistic, erratic or casual. Despite limited evidence, CME appears to be useful at the acquisition and retention of knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviours and clinical outcomes. Improved CME practice must in turn lead to continuing critical reflection, practice modification and implementation with a focus towards the excellence of patient care (1).​​ 


The role of CME in the improvement of clinical practice is currently well established. It is evident​​ that CME will play​​ an​​ even greater role in​​ future​​ clinical practice.​​ Therefore, it is our responsibility to conduct comprehensive CME programs to educate the clinicians​​ and​​ to​​ ensure quality​​ assurance in clinical practice.



Dr.​​ N.P Senanayake

Senior Lecturer in Microbiology

Faculty of medicine

General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University




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  • Davis DA, Thomson MA, Oxman AD, et al. Evidence for the effectiveness of CME. A review of 50 randomized​​ controlled trials.​​ JAMA​​ 1992;268:1111-7.​​ 

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