Although concerns have been raised about industry support of continuing medical education (CME), there are few published reports of academia-industry collaboration in the field. We describe and evaluate Pri-Med, a CME experience for primary care clinicians developed jointly by the Harvard Medical School (HMS) and M/C Communications.
Since 1995, 19 Pri-Med conferences have been held in four cities, drawing more than 100,000 primary care clinicians. The educational core of each Pri-Med conference is a 3-day Harvard course, "Current Clinical Issues in Primary Care." Course content is determined by a faculty committee independent of any commercial influence. Revenues from multiple industry sources flow through M/C Communications to the medical school as an educational grant to support primary care education. Pri-Med also offers separate pharmaceutical company-funded symposia.
Comparing the two educational approaches during four conferences, 221 HMS talks and 103 symposia were presented. The HMS course covered a wide range with 133 topics; the symposia focused on 30 topics, most of which were linked to recently approved new therapeutic products manufactured by the funders. Both the course and the symposia were highly rated by attendees.
When CME presentations for primary care physicians receive direct support from industry, the range of offered topics is narrower than when programs are developed independently of such support. There appear to be no differences in the perceived quality of presentations delivered with and without such support. Our experience suggests that a firewall between program planners and providers of financial support will result in a broader array of educational subjects relevant to the field of primary care.