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Zona on the importance of being up to date for healthcare professionals



«A provider must be an expert in training methodology, must have the ability to understand medical content and finally must be able to communicate with scientific societies»

Paolo Zona, CEO of Cluster s.r.l. and ECM provider approved by the Ministry of Health

Information is essential whenever people’s health is concerned, since new techniques and best practices are discovered each year. Often, though, information is mainly directed towards patients, forgetting about doctors, nurses, technicians, psychologists etc. who need to stay up to date with new technologies and breakthroughs as well. This is why healthcare professionals should never forego training courses and conferences. Paolo Zona, CEO of Cluster S.r.l., ECM provider approved by the Italian Ministry of Health and former president of Federcongressi, explains the usefulness of staying up to date in this field and the advantages that good planning brings to these meetings.

Technical capacities and theoretical knowledge, the pillars of healthcare professionals 

Paolo Zona, CEO of Cluster s.r.l. and ECM provider approved by the Ministry of Health

Medicine is a science topic, and as such technological advances are constant. It would be unreasonable to try and treat someone with the same techniques that were used forty years ago, because not only instruments but also knowledge change and improve. Each healthcare professional must remain updated on what is new, regardless of their experience and status. There are credits that each professional has to accrue, by participating in training courses and congresses.

The organisation of these courses, however, is a hard and complex task that includes many responsibilities. «It is intuitive to think that a healthcare professional who is up-to-date and educated about new discoveries will provide a better service to patients in contrast to those who are not» Zona says, explaining that the most formative courses and conferences need to handle two separate parts: the implementing one and the planning one. The first part mainly deals with the organisation of the physical event, which may look easy but is in fact deceptively hard, considering the size of data needed to manage a large conference or course. Even updating a simple database may become a time consuming task to people who are not experts. «The best content, if it is not well deployed and organised, becomes terrible content».

The second planning part instead requires a great deal of scientific knowledge together with great interpersonal and political skills, in order to create an interesting lineup capable of adding value to healthcare professionals. «The planning part requires constant research… in order to find the best contents and the right professors that work in harmony» Zona continues.

How are these courses perceived by healthcare professionals? Zona explains that, unfortunately, when the law about credits was approved in 1999, many conferences were inadequate for what they wanted to achieve. Nowadays the impact of professionals of the so-called ECM (Continuous Medical Education) has substantially changed. «There is a different attention in regards to these credits, first of all coming by medical associations and other professional orders» Zona continues, explaining that even if there is still a long way to go, that way of thinking is a thing of the past.

ECM, what is it and what is its purpose

ECM, which stands for Educazione Continua in Medicina (Continuous Medical Education), before 2010 was a generic credits system structured that did not include a structured approach to professionals’ education. «Medical formation consisted of large audiences listening to speakers, not professors. Then the stage changed, conferences still exists but as a moment to engage in networking and sharing of scientific content, not as a training moment» Zona claims.

Since 2010, however, an Italian law further structured the training system creating the ECM providers, which are training courses organisers who innovated the old way of thinking. The difference with a simple conference organiser is that ECM providers, apart from logistics, deal with the full conception of the training courses and meetings, even on a scientific and technical basis. «The ECM provider is the only true responsible of the scientific contents presented, together with its scientific committee and the professors, also known as content providers» Zona continues, highlighting that this system started a new era about ECM. 

In summary, to guarantee an excellent national health service such as the Italian one, it is essential for healthcare professionals to always remain up to date. ECM providers, like Cluster S.r.l., operate together with professors and speakers to ensure that workers are always knowledgeable about new techniques and discoveries. «I love calling my job a craft» Zona concludes, because this finely crafted organisation needs to be backed up not only by professionalism but also by passion regarding a fast paced world such as that of health.

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