In February, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, released the final rule concerning payments to physicians.
The CMS rule sets forth requirements for the public reporting of payments to physicians from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
The rule is an important validation of the accredited and certified continuing education systems, including the ACCME and the Standards for Commercial Support: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities.
The final rule creates a special exclusion for payments to speakers at accredited continuing education programs, if certain conditions are met. This exclusion recognizes the value of the safeguards that currently protect the independence of accredited continuing education.
The conditions for the exclusion are completely consistent with the Standards for Commercial Support.
Under the CMS exclusion, industry cannot provide suggestions for speakers for accredited CME. This is consistent with our requirements. The ACCME Standards state that accredited providers must make all decisions regarding CME, including the selection of speakers, independent of industry influence.
The ACCME believes that CME providers can receive commercial support from industry without receiving any advice or guidance, either nuanced or direct, on the content of the activity or on who should deliver that content. Accredited providers must not allow commercial interests to directly or indirectly control the content of CME.
Another condition of the CMS exclusion is that industry cannot make direct payments to speakers. This is also consistent with our requirements. The ACCME Standards state that all commercial support must be paid directly to the CME provider, or to the provider’s joint sponsor. Commercial supporters cannot make direct payments to CME speakers or to any individuals for their roles in CME activities.
The ACCME Standards for Commercial Support create a framework for ensuring that CME is accountable to participants, to the profession of medicine, and to the public for promoting health care quality improvement.
The Standards are designed to ensure that accredited CME activities are independent, free of commercial bias, and based on valid content.
In addition to CMS, a number of government agencies have recognized the value of accredited continuing education. The Food and Drug Administration, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have incorporated accredited CME into their public health strategies.
We appreciate that CMS recognizes the importance of accredited continuing education and the value of the ACCME Standards in safeguarding the independence of accredited continuing education.