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How to Choose the Right Online CME Provider

As a healthcare professional, you don’t need to be reminded how important continuing medical education (CME) is. It’s vital for maintaining your license, and it helps keep you up-to-date on the latest developments in patient care and treatment.

Despite the importance of CME, live conferences might not always make the most sense for you. Your CME budget may not be large enough to cover travel costs, you may not be able to leave the office for an extended period of time, and you may have other family or community commitments that make travel difficult. Fortunately, you don’t need to.

Online CME has changed dramatically since it first emerged, but there’s still a gulf between the best online CME and the worst of it. How do you know what to look for in an online CME provider, or how to evaluate whether you’re getting a good value? A cursory glance at a given course or provider might not tell you much, so here, we’ll break down what to look for in an online CME provider.

What to Look at Before Choosing an Online CME Provider

When you’re considering online CME providers, there are four major factors you’ll want to evaluate: the course’s accreditation and relevance for your practice, the course’s content and quality, its cost, and finally, whether it affords you the appropriate amount of flexibility. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these elements.

Verify Course Accreditation and Relevancy

The first step for selecting the right online CME provider is ensuring that their courses are properly accredited, and that they offer the right type of credits for your profession and state licensing requirements.

For example, the most common type of credits needed by physicians are AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. However, there are various other types of credits offered through online CME courses, but these credits may not be accepted by each state’s medical licensing board. In Alabama, ABMS credits are accepted as an equivalent to AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. However, in Florida, ABMS credits aren’t accepted as an equivalent, but CME credits are. Naturally, nurses and physician assistants will have different requirements for licensing, and will need to verify that an online CME provider offers the right type of credits.

If you don’t verify the course’s level of accreditation, you could mistakenly end up spending time and money on courses that don’t meet your licensure requirements. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the provider offers courses that are relevant for your professional development needs.

For example, many states require physicians and other healthcare professionals to obtain a certain quota of CME credits, but include other requirements within that quota. For example, many states require physicians to obtain a number of credits focusing on topics such as opioid prescription, and the prevention of medical errors.

Course Content and Quality

Secondly, you’ll want to assess the quality of a course before signing up for longer, more intensive and paid CME courses. Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that you’ll want to assess before settling on a provider and a course:

  • Production Value: Free CME can sound good at first, but when you find yourself sitting through hours of glorified slideshows, you may feel differently. A quality CME provider will put effort and resources into their online CME courses, making them as interesting and engaging as live CME, while also taking advantage of the opportunities that a pre-recorded medium affords providers and presenters.
  • Credibility of the Provider: How long has the provider been in the CME business? Are they an extension of a larger media company, or are they solely dedicated to serving physicians, nurses, physicians assistants, and healthcare professionals? Being able to trust a CME provider is essential because the courses you take don’t simply check boxes to maintain your licensure, they share vital information that shapes your work and the treatment of real people.
  • Credibility of the Presenter: Finally, it’s essential the presenter is credible. With online CME, it’s essential that you can verify who’s presenting the information, and where that information is coming from. CME often covers some of the latest developments in medicine and healthcare, so it’s essential the information you receive is accurate and credible.

Course Cost

Next, you’ll naturally want to assess the cost of an online CME course. A cursory glance online will reveal an abundance of free online CME courses, but are they worth your time? To find out, you’ll first want to assess them for the criteria we covered above. Then, you’ll want to investigate whether they have notable disclosures, such as partnerships with drug companies who might sponsor course content.

Keep in mind, there’s rarely such a thing as a ‘free’ CME course—and if it is free, you are the product. Scrutinize free CME providers with diligence, and understand how partnerships can impact the content and quality of the courses you take. Paid online CME tends to use fees to recruit the best speakers, and experts who are at the cutting edge of developments in medicine. In the end, when it comes to the cost of online CME courses, you’ll get what you pay for.


One of the most attractive features of online CME is that, being online, it’s vastly more flexible than an in-person conference. However, there’s still a lot of variance between online CME providers. Be sure to take the time to check a provider’s platform out and understand its capabilities or lack thereof before purchasing a course.

Can you save your progress in a course, or do you need to finish it in a single period? Can you access the course if you don’t have access to the internet? How long do you have to complete the course? Asking all these questions can ensure that you find a provider who meets your specific needs.

Recap: What to Evaluate When Choosing an Online CME Provider

With so many options, it can be tough to choose the right online CME provider for your needs. However, by assessing the following, you can ensure that you’re getting what you need from the experience:

  • Does the provider offer the right type of credits for your state’s licensing requirements, and are the courses relevant to your areas of practice?
  • Are the courses well prepared and presented, and are the provider and presenters credible?
  • Does the provider have any partnerships that could be impacting the quality of the content?
  • Does the flexibility of the course meet your lifestyle’s needs?

For Online CME You Can Trust, Turn to Continuing Education Company

Continuing Education Company (CEC) has been a leader in the continuing medical education industry for over 30 years. Our courses are all accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, and we offer AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ for completed online CME courses. As a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, CEC is free of pharmaceutical sponsorship. This allows us to provide the best educational experience for what our customers need, coming from leaders in healthcare from around the country.

Our online CME courses feature unparalleled production value. With multi-angle video from our live conferences, we offer one of the most engaging online CME experiences that’s well worth its value. Not sure if it’s for you? Check out one of our select free courses, or browse our full course catalog to learn more about our course offerings.

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