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How Case-Based Learning Complements CME


At Forefront Collaborative, we are committed to remaining tenacious in our pursuit of new approaches to CME that will help move patient care forward. To that end, case-based learning (CBL) has come to light as a means by which CME learners can benefit from the details of real patient experiences. CBL is helping us pioneer educational nuances from best practices in educational design, needs assessment surveys, and the diligence of investigating gaps in healthcare. 

What is case-based learning? 

Case-based learning (CBL) is a teaching tool that uses human cases to show relevance and help connect theory with practice. So, the advantages of CBL range from generating simple knowledge all the way through morphing patient care outcomes. 

A case for why case-based learning works 

When one Harvard professor shared the revelation of CBL with 22 volunteer students at University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, they were enthusiastic and engaged.  

Dr. Richard M. Schwartzstein, Ellen and Melvin Gordon Professor of Medicine and Medical Education and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was not surprised by their collective reaction. 

Harvard Medical School’s curriculum centered on case-based collaborative learning gave UM educators a look at an approach that teaches students how to think. 

“We’re sharing a model that really emphasizes application of knowledge to solve problems,” Dr. Schwartzstein said. “This is very different from traditional models of teaching – it puts a lot more emphasis on getting students to work together, it forces them to commit to learn the material in advance, and then they come into the classroom and immediately apply the information to clinical cases.” 

Case-based learning in “family” practice 

In a study that predates but corroborates the findings of Harvard’s Dr. Schwartzstein, BioMed Central found that patient case reviews initiate reflective processes and provide feedback about performance in real life situations. In fact, family physicians favor patient case reviews because this learning method embraces the complexities they encounter in daily practice and focuses on personal experiences. 

Survey says: Let’s get personal 

Since the time to train and the way it happens are becoming challenging (and reportedly stale) among employees and HCPs, case-based learning is looking like the way of the future.  

A Healthstream survey found that if learning is personalized to both an employee’s role and their knowledge level, the impact is noticeable. What’s more, respondents agreed that adaptive learning will undoubtedly improve the quality of patient care. 

Case-based learning in frontline situations 

Beyond an ideal way of learning for clinical personnel, case studies also prove valuable for frontline healthcare professionals in achieving positive patient outcomes. They promote deep learning based on previous knowledge and personal experience.  

Because of the split-second decisions healthcare professionals must make with patients, case-based learning enables healthcare professionals to learn more about common complaints, unusual presentations of a disease, and fatal conditions that require spot-on, rapid-fire diagnosis to save lives. 

Case studies help students, HCPs in traditional office settings, and those on the frontline to: 

  1. Learn from realistic clinical scenarios 
  2. Increase learner participation 
  3. Share new clinical data 
  4. Promote critical thinking 
  5. Improve patient outcomes 


Putting proof into practice 

For an example of how Forefront applies case-based learning to the work we do in producing continuing medical education materials, we invite you to take a look at the link here:

Personalized Patient Cases: Psoriatic Arthritis  

It’s a self-directed exercise that prompts learners to customize case studies and learn from making clinical decisions and receiving feedback. This personalized case method lets learners see connections between presented teaching points and their own practice—which supports application to patient care.