NEHI Member Spotlight
Dr. Martin Samuels is the director of medical education at Lighthouse Learning, an independent provider of medical education for physicians, offering a national curriculum in medicine spanning 12 major specialties.
NEHI: Why did you start Lighthouse Learning?
Martin Samuels: Lighthouse Learning was created to remediate two concerning trends in physician education. The first is the increasing influence of industry over the content of continuing medical education (CME) programs. When companies sponsor conferences and other events that provide physician education, no one can be sure whether the material is presented because it’s in the interests of better patient care or due to the sponsor’s influence. This is a problem from a confidence standpoint – physicians must be confident about the purity of the information they’re taught, and the public should be confident that industry is not influencing their physician’s advice. Lighthouse Learning accepts no funding from industry, and the content of our curriculum is 100 percent pure, created independently by the nation’s leading experts.
The other trend our solution addresses is the increasing fragmentation of medical care across the board. Primary care doctors, internists, emergency department physicians and specialists all operate within silos, creating poor communication and inefficient care such as duplication of tests and procedures. The way most medical education works today continues this separated approach, with primary care physicians and specialists educated in their own independent spheres. All told, this approach, which discourages collaboration among providers, results in potentially disjointed and inconsistent communications with patients, ultimately harming the quality of patient care.
In order to improve communication among providers and between providers and patients, we offer educational content for primary care and specialist physicians as well as patients; each topic in our curricula features tracks for each audience, so they’re learning similar content and can then, in turn, have consistent conversations about the best approaches to care. Our hope is that we can inspire better collaboration and smooth the path for better continuity of care, from primary to specialty, for patients
NEHI: How did you choose the name?
MS: A lighthouse produces a very pure, very intense light at its origin, which spreads out like a cone, becoming less intense but more inclusive. We felt we needed to create a very intense and pure light at the origin – the most detail-intensive part of our curricula, aimed at specialists – which would spread out to encompass primary care physicians and, ultimately, the patients and patients’ families. It’s an apt metaphor for what we’re trying to achieve: ultimately, to improve the way physicians deliver, and the way patients receive, medical care.
NEHI: Why do you consider this a disruptive innovation?
MS: Medical education needed an entirely new approach to address the issues of industry influence and disjointed education among primary care and specialist physicians. We believe that the approach we’re taking, in order to address those issues and improve physician education, is unique.
Even beyond providing a new approach that is pure and encourages collaboration, though, is this idea that medical education itself can be used as a vehicle to improve not just the specific approach a physician takes in treating a patient – by learning about new drugs and treatments – but to improve the entire health care system, the quality of care overall. We believe we’re doing this by fostering a new level of collaboration among physicians, and encouraging organizations to educate their physicians in a new way. That idea is truly disruptive.
NEHI: How has industry responded?
MS: Industry has been supportive. We’ve made it clear that we are in no way “anti industry.” And many leaders at the highest levels of industry have long recognized the problem, the appearance of conflict, and have already taken steps to improve the transparency of their support for CME. They know they can no longer sponsor a dinner at a downtown Boston hotel and expect that their presentation on a drug or device will be accepted without some skepticism.
We believe we’ve fostered a new level of transparency and purity in education, but we weren’t the first to take steps in that direction. We welcome the movement toward greater independence and transparency in CME.
NEHI: How do you develop your curriculum and what areas do you cover?
MS: Our curricula are developed across 12 specialties – these areas cover about 90 percent of the reasons patients seek medical attention – by leading national experts in those areas. In recruiting our curriculum directors, we successfully sought doctors who are well-known, not just as academic physicians, but as people with great clinical expertise and wisdom.
Each curriculum director then creates a curriculum in his or her area, one that has three components, to address each audience (primary care doctors, specialists and patients). For example, take the topic of headache, which comes up as an important gap in physician knowledge across the board, resulting in suboptimal care. As the curriculum director in neurology, I recruited the person I believed was the leading headache expert in the world and asked him to create the curriculum in headache designed for specialists; this is an up-to-date, intensive curriculum for specialists and sub-specialists, people who specialize in headache.
Then there’s another track for primary care doctors in headache, which I myself am developing. I’m producing a module designed to help primary care doctors understand headache, how to take a history and how to take care of common problems themselves, and then when to refer a patient to a neurologist. Finally, a track for patients helps them understand what a headache is, and how they can treat it both at home and by seeking medical attention. There are hundreds of these examples, for all the big medical problems, across each of the 12 specialties.
NEHI: How does the curriculum get into practice as CME?
MS: We’re like “Intel on the inside” in your computer – we don’t market to our enduser audience, physicians and patients, directly. We don’t arrange the actual conferences, develop and own the websites, nor publish and/or print the publications where the material is presented; we only develop the curriculum. This helps ensure our independence, since we are just developing the curricula based on medical evidence, regardless of who we’re selling it to or what format it will be presented in.
Our clients include a range of organizations seeking to provide high-quality education programs for physicians and patients. This includes medical meetings companies, specialty societies, employers, electronic publishers and even managed care organizations, ACOs and others seeking to better understand and address gaps in physician practice that threaten health care quality. So while the Lighthouse Learning name is not on conference banners, we’re behind the world-class curricula these organizations enlist us to develop for their audiences NEHI: What is your vision for future growth?
MS: Our President and CEO, Jon Leibowitz, is focused on expanding our reach to organizations seeking independent, world-class curricula that improve patient care quality. We believe that our approach to medical education can be used to dramatically improve efficiency by reducing duplication – things like unnecessary tests and procedures – by addressing knowledge gaps and better educating physicians and patients.
We’ve come to a point where physicians and the public will no longer tolerate conflict – real or perceived – and we’re offering a solution that not only fixes that problem but also helps move our health care system forward in the process. We believe there is a huge market, and huge potential, for what Lighthouse Learning has to offer.