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What is IME?

Published Online: June 15th 2022
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What is IME?

Have you ever wondered what Independent Medical Education (IME) is all about and how it works? Our Chief Scientific Officer, Alison Scott explains the key points…

Most people who work in Medical Communications (Med Comms) have a rough feel for what IME is – education, but without pharmaceutical company involvement – but what does that actually mean in practice? And how do they compare?

Med Comms and IME: The common ground

The aim of both IME and Med Comms is to educate healthcare professionals. They share the same clear and scientific style and both accurately reference content to high-quality sources. IME and Med Comms both work with well-known faculty to help deliver the education using a variety of channels/formats. Those distribution channels overlap too, with satellite symposia, congress coverage, you get the picture…

But… you knew that was coming, right?! …there are some key differences between Med Comms and IME.

Starting at the beginning: How is IME funded?

In IME funding is provided in the form of an ‘unrestricted medical education grant’, which means that the pharmaceutical supporter (the ‘client’ in Med Comms parlance) provides the financial support and IME providers develop the education without supporter input.

So, how do we come by these grants? We develop proposals for education, which describe in detail the need for education on a specific topic, the activity we will develop to address those needs, what participants will gain from the activity and how we will assess and report the impact of the activity on knowledge and competence – and again, perhaps in contrast to Med Comms proposals – we are bound to deliver exactly what we propose. Proposals are then submitted for review, often to grants committees – the pharma medical team may have little or no influence over funding decisions – and it is a very competitive process, so I often think that proposals really need to be a ‘pitch on a page’!

So as you can imagine, much of the thinking about what an activity will look like goes on at the proposal stage.

This thinking includes how we will deliver the education. At touchIME, all our activities take the form of short, focussed videos that are freely available on our own websites – we know that the majority of HCPs have very little time for engaging with education and most of that time is spent using mobile devices. We have a range of activity types, including HCP conversations – click here for an example of a recent touchIN CONVERSATION – as well as more traditional interviews – click here for a recent touchEXPERT OPINIONS, and careful consideration is given to which would be best for that particular content. All of our activities have one thing in common though – they focus on the practicalities of managing, treating and supporting patients. Perhaps the best example of this is the touchMDT, which was developed recently to ensure the patient is at the heart of the discussions – read more about this innovative format in a previous post from our Chief Operating Officer, David Noble, here.

What does IME content development look like?

Once we’ve secured the grant, the supporter has no input on the content. None. At all. In fact, in stark contrast to Med Comms, the IME content development team does not speak with the supporter during activity development. However, we do speak with faculty – extensively! We talk with them about what the content might cover and discuss ideas with them before we develop any materials, and often even as we write the proposal. It is one of the perks of the job to talk so openly with therapy area experts and learn from them directly. The faculty also have the final say about what is covered and we definitely don’t give them a script, key phrases to use or tell them that a particular aspect of the topic is ‘off-limits’!

The content absolutely has to be fair and balanced though – that is we talk about all the available treatments for a specific disease with each one getting the same ‘air time’. My ideal is that participants should not be able to deduce the supporter from the activity content. Participants can also earn Continuing Medical Education credits from many of our activities as they are accredited. This doesn’t change how we approach development, but does mean that the content is all reviewed in detail by an external specialist to ensure it meets the strict criteria to achieve accreditation.

IME changes clinical practice!

You’ll remember that I mentioned above we need to report the impact of the activity to our supporters… For every activity we develop, we measure education levels in the target audience before we start and then measure them again in people who have engaged with the activity, so we can really see how successful the education has been. 

In summary, IME and Med Comms are the same but different. So if you’re working in Med Comms and wonder if you can ‘do’ IME, you definitely can! I love it because we work so closely with expert faculty and we develop education that helps clinicians improve their practice. It is hugely rewarding to see that an activity you developed has actually improved education levels and changed clinical practice!

Interested in joining us?

Ready for a hugely rewarding career in IME that gives you consistent satisfaction in developing activities that genuinely improve education levels and change in clinical practice? 

Find out more on our careers page.

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