The Medical Council of India (MCI) amended its professional conduct, etiquette and ethics regulations in 2002. It is now compulsory for all practicing doctors to finish 30 hours of Continuing Medical Education in India every 5 years. The doctors have to complete the hours to renew their license, and can earn the credits through seminars and workshops organised by medical institutions in India. However, since this is not legally binding, only about 20 percent of India’s doctors follow the regulations. Moreover, doctors from rural areas are unable to attend CME programmes as they have limited access to these courses. According to a study by the WHO’s Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy Department published in September 2002, CME opportunities are limited in developing countries like India due to a lack of legal or other incentives. The rapid developments in technology and science and the impending threat of new diseases have made it imperative to strengthen CME in India. 

Continuing Medical Education In India: Criteria

Many state councils have adhered to the guidelines set by the MCI and made CME compulsory for doctors in India. Punjab and Kerala, are among the first few states that took the lead in making CME mandatory in the country. Institutions that can conduct CME programmes and issue certificates of attendance include all recognized medical colleges with medical education units, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) or the state chapters of the IMA, the National Academy of Medical Sciences, national-level specialists associations and their state chapters, all accredited PG medical institutes in India. As of now, CME programmes have been held in many places like Mangalore, Madurai, Aligarh, Dharamshala, Muzaffarnagar, Nagpur, Patna, Guwahati, Jaipur, etc. 

In order to conduct a Continuing Medical Education In India, there are criteria that needs to be followed. For instance, the institute has to ensure that the right professionals deliver the lectures, workshops or seminars, and determine a suitable location. They have to keep in mind the category of doctors that the programme caters to, and try to prepare the schedule and transcripts of the CME programme a year in advance. They also have to determine the total fee from each participating doctor, as per the workshop and material resources. They must also ensure that the doctors are informed through public channels in advance. Institutes must make sure that the doctors are provided with educational resources for the programme like handouts, types of equipment, slides, etc. They must also organize the CME programmes throughout the year and also arrange accommodation for participants. Organizations conducting CME programmes must have a feedback evaluation programme and submit a report to the state medical councils or the MCI and outline the number and category of participants and a report of the evaluation of the impact on the CME students. 

As for CME programmes conducted for graduate doctors, they must go through sessions that cover national health programmes, recent advancements, changing systems in treatments, medical insurance laws, and consumer protection laws as well as record keeping and medical audit. The accreditation period is for a year after which it has to be renewed again through CME programmes. A programme of two days is eligible for 4 credit hours, one day programme for 2 credit hours, yearly CME distance education courses for 20 hours and for six-month courses the credit hours are ten. There are about 100 to 150 programmes held each year in India by Indian physicians settled in the US, and the MCI finalises the disciplines of the programmes based on the demand and the availability of faculty. The hosting institutions, the foreign faculty and the council work together to conduct these programmes successfully. 

Why Online Education is the Way Forward For CME 

There is a severe scarcity of doctors in India, as we only have about 1 doctor per 1000 population, and the quality of medical graduates is quite low. Online courses can serve as a means to train doctors and upskill them using technology. The rural gap can be bridged by bringing these programmes to doctors through the internet. Online courses offer full-fledged programmes as well as online seminars by senior faculty and healthcare professionals. The only challenge for online CME is accreditation by the MCI, and there have to be some changes in this regard. However, doctors are warming up to cost-effective and high-quality online courses in order to upskill themselves. An ongoing issue is that doctors lose about 35.10 hours if they earn their credits through live CME in comparison to online CME. The number of doctors is already low and a loss of those hours leads to a loss of 35.10 million clinical hours (for 1 million doctors). Looking at these reasons, embracing online CME seems to be a logical step forward for India.