Top 5 Questions About CME for Family Medicine Physicians

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November 7, 2022
In medicine, the pursuit of knowledge does not end once you graduate from residency or fellowship. After all, in order to provide optimized patient care, physicians must be lifelong learners! In this post, we will answer the top questions about continuing medical education (CME) and requirements for family medicine physicians. 

1. What is CME and why is it important?

CME stands for “continuing medical education.” The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) defines CME as:

“…educational activities which serve 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. The content of CME is that body of knowledge and skills generally recognized and accepted by the profession as within the basic medical sciences, the discipline of clinical medicine, and the provision of health care to the public.”

Meeting CME requirements is important because it allows you, the physician, to keep up with pertinent skills and provide the best quality of care to your patients and community. Therefore, maintaining your membership in professional societies, your credentials at the hospital where you work, and your state medical license require you to keep up with certain CME minimums.


2. What are my CME requirements for family medicine? How many credits do I need, and how often?

Specific CME requirements for state licensure boards vary by state. For example, I practice in Texas, where practitioners must complete 48 hours of CME every 24 months per the Texas Medical Board. Make sure to check the list for state-by-state CME requirements for the state(s) you practice.  

Additionally, to maintain membership with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), there are general AAFP CME requirements you must complete each year:

“Active members must complete 150 credits of CME every three years. Of these, a minimum of 75 must be prescribed credit. The remaining credits may be prescribed, elective, or a combination of both. Each AAFP Constituent Chapter has the option of requiring its members to obtain a portion of their CME credit from that chapter’s produced or approved activities. In such cases, no more than 25 credits may be required from these activities. It is the responsibility of each chapter to inform the CME Credit Systems and Compliance Department which activities should be designated in the CME database as chapter-approved.” 


3. What is the difference between Category 1 and Category 2 CME?

There are two categories of CME credits: Category 1 CME and Category 2 CME. 

Category 1 CME, also referred to above by AAFP as “prescribed credit,” consists of educational activities that have been certified or approved by the ACCME, or an authorized state medical society. 

Category 2 CME, referred to above as “elective credit,” are credits that you can document on your own. Though they are not certified officially as Category 1, they must meet a few choice criteria that the physician learner will need to determine:

  1. They comply with the AMA definition of CME.
  2. They comply with the relevant AMA ethical opinions.
  3. The physician finds the activity to be a worthwhile learning experience related to his/her practice.
  4. They are not promotional.

For a full breakdown on the different types of CME, refer to the AAFP website.


4. What are some different ways I can earn CME in family medicine?

There are many different ways to obtain family medicine CME. Some options can get costly, so make sure that if your employer gives you a yearly stipend for continuing education, you plan ahead and use your CME money before the end of the year!

Some popular methods for obtaining CME include the following:

Attend a multi-day conference

Conferences are a great way to earn CME and promote professional development in a myriad of different ways. Notable conferences in family medicine include the AAFP National Conference and FMX. Conferences usually last three or four days and provide multiple CME opportunities, usually in the form of lectures.

The general rule of thumb is that every hour of learning material equates to one unit of CME. Family medicine incorporates a wide scope of practice, so regardless of your particular interest, there will likely be a conference suited for you!

Look things up

Using electronic clinical resource tools such as UpToDate or Medscape as a way to refresh your knowledge during day-to-day practice can be an easy and relevant way to earn CME. Be sure to make an account and log in so that you get credit for your medical searches!

Read a journal

Subscribing to notable medical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) or The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) will often give you access to CME activities related to specific articles. If you’re reading these articles already, you might as well get some credit for it!

Answer Qbank questions

Answering practice questions relevant to your field can be an engaging and interactive way to keep up your medical know-how. For example, Rosh Review offers family medicine CME opportunities when you complete 1,000 practice questions in your Family Medicine Qbank!

Teach

Finally, you can receive CME credit for working with students, hosting seminars, or conducting workshops that meet eligibility requirements.


5. How do I “submit” CME once I’ve earned it?

The process of submitting CME is not always as clear as the process of obtaining CME. There are multiple different entities to which you may need to report your CME, including the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), or the hospital where you work.

AAFP offers relatively straightforward guidelines for submitting CME credits. Additionally, AAFP also provides the convenient option of faxing your CME record to other third-party entities, including ABFM. This service must be specifically requested.

State boards will also vary on requirements regarding CME submission. Some state boards do not require automatic submission of CME records but may audit physicians randomly, at which point you will be required to show proof of documentation of CME. Therefore, the best plan of action is to check with your state medical board via their official website. 


Hopefully, addressing these common questions regarding family medicine CME will help guide you in a promising direction. The concept of CME may sound overwhelming and confusing at first, but with a little help, it is definitely manageable!

The purpose of CME is to improve yourself as a physician and improve the quality of care for your patients. That, in itself, is a worthwhile endeavor. Instead of checking off boxes, try to find ways to obtain CME that actually benefit you as a learner and caretaker, and lead you to keep improving your practice.


If you’re recertifying in family medicine, earn 100 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ with the Rosh Review Longitudinal Assessment (FMCLA) Qbank! Or, start with a Rosh Review free trial.

By Mike Ren, MD


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