Welcome to accredited continuing medical education (CME)!
This tutorial was designed to help new CME professionals and volunteers establish a framework with which to understand the expectations of accredited CME. The outline below is a brief curriculum for you to follow in order to learn more about the ACCME’s Accreditation Criteria and policies and, in turn, to better understand the processes that your organization has chosen to implement in an effort to meet these expectations. The goal is to help you not only understand ACCME expectations, but to be able to assess your organization’s processes and make improvements along the way.
I’m new to my role in CME, what should I do first?
STEP 1: UNDERSTANDING ACCME EXPECTATIONS
- The ACCME has Accreditation Criteria, which include the Standards for Commercial SupportSM: Standards to Ensure the Independence in CME Activities (SCS), as well as policies that provide a framework for you to plan and implement CME for your learners. True, these are rules for accreditation, but they also are tools to help you manage an effective educational program. To begin, orient yourself to the accreditation requirements – the Accreditation Criteria, the Standards for Commercial Support, and ACCME policies.
- Now that you’ve learned about the ACCME Accreditation Criteria, Standards for Commercial Support, and policies, explore the ACCME’s online education to get a better understanding of what these expectations mean to you and what they might look like in practice:
- Ask ACCME: Organized by topic, this catalog of written Q&A based on questions that we’ve received from accredited providers can help you gain a better understanding of ACCME expectations. You can browse the questions by category or use the search function to find information on a specific topic.
- Video FAQs: These 2-5 minute videos feature ACCME staff explaining the Accreditation Criteria and Standards for Commercial Support. To find Video FAQs on specific topics, enter a key word in the search box in the top right of the Web site and then filter the results by clicking on VIDEO in the FILTER BY CONTENT TYPE box on the right side of the search results page.
We have also included transcripts for each of these videos, which can be accessed by clicking on the TRANSCRIPT link below the video window on each video page.
- Examples of Compliance and Noncompliance: This library includes real-world case examples drawn from the three data sources reviewed during the accreditation process – the self-study report, interview, and performance-in-practice documentation review. The goal of sharing these examples is to enable providers and CME stakeholders to learn from each other and to understand how the ACCME determines compliance and noncompliance with its requirements. We have included examples from each provider type and from providers with a range of resources to help you identify a strategy that is similar to the one your organization uses or might choose to use.
Remember, these are only examples of how some organizations have chosen to meet ACCME expectations; your organization should implement a process that works best for you.
- The ACCME also offers live educational events for CME professionals and volunteers. You can find information about upcoming events on the Events tab of the Web site. To see the events for accredited CME providers, use the FILTER BY AUDIENCE drop-down box on the left side of the web page and choose “CME Providers.”
Twice each year, in April and August, we offer our CME as a Bridge to Quality™ Accreditation Workshop. This workshop gives you the opportunity to meet with your peers, talk about strategies that you can/do use to meet ACCME expectations, and get answers to your questions.
Now that I understand the ACCME’s accreditation expectations, what do I do with this information?
STEP 2: UNDERSTANDING YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL PROCESSES AND NEEDS
The ACCME Criteria, Standards for Commercial Support, and policies establish a foundation for your CME program. With that foundation, each accredited provider will meet the accreditation expectations in its own way; based on its priorities, needs, and resources. It is important to understand your own organization’s expectations for its educational program and the processes that are currently in place to plan and implement CME activities as well as to evaluate and make improvements to the CME program.
- How can you find out what your organization needs and expects of CME?
- A good place to start is by looking at the most recent version of your CME mission statement. As you are looking at your CME mission, see if you can identify the required components that are outlined in
- Ask… your administration, colleagues/co-workers, volunteers, CME committee.
- How can you find out about your organizational processes?
- If your organization has process documents or a CME policy and procedure manual, you could start there. The ACCME does not require organizations to have a policy and procedure manual for CME, but some providers choose to maintain one.
- Another place to look for information about your organization’s process is in its last self-study report, which is the document that is written for the reaccreditation process. That report should contain narrative information about all of your CME processes. In addition, you could review your organization’s last Accreditation Decision Report.
- Look though any activity files that you might have from past events; those files should contain the tools that your organization uses to plan educational events.
- Again, ask… your colleagues/ co-workers and/or CME Committee. You could use the ACCME’s current self-study report outline to “interview” anyone with knowledge about the program in order to gather your own information and insights.
STEP 3: REFLECT ON YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL PROCESSES
Once you have an understanding of the needs and expectations of your organization related to CME and have gathered information about the process that your organization currently uses, you are ready to reflect on how those processes align with ACCME expectations.
You reviewed your last self-study report and activity files in STEP 2; next, if you haven’t already, find and review your organization’s last Accreditation Decision Report as well as any progress report(s) that your organization may have submitted as a result of a noncompliance finding. This will help you determine if there are areas that may still pose a risk for noncompliance for your organization as well help you ensure that your organization continues to implement compliant practices.
We have compiled a tutorial entitled Preventing Noncompliance Pitfalls which pinpoints common areas of noncompliance for accredited providers. Here are critical areas for you to check as you are assessing your organizational practices:
- Is your organization using the correct definition of a commercial interest when determining the relevant financial relationships of everyone in the position to control your educational content?
- Are you gathering information about relevant financial relationships from everyone in the position to control content and disclosing all of that information to the activity participants?
- Are you both collecting and analyzing information about the changes in your learners achieved as a result of your activities?
- How does your organization analyze the degree to which your CME mission is being met through your educational interventions?
As a new CME professional or volunteer, you are able to bring a fresh perspective to your organization’s processes. For each step, form, document, tool, etc., ask yourself, “What ACCME or organizational expectation is this helping the CME program to meet?” and “How or why?” or even “Why not?”
We have tools available on our Web site to help you with your reflection:
- Provider Self-Assessment on Readiness to Demonstrate Compliance with ACCME’s Updated Standards for Commercial Support is a tool that is designed to help providers link their organization’ s practices to the ACCME’s expectations regarding compliance with the Standards for Commercial Support, (Accreditation Criteria 7-10).
- As mentioned in STEP 2, you could use the ACCME’s current self-study report outline to organize your thoughts and assess how you’re meeting each expectation.
- To help you reflect on the broader issue of how CME is or can be a strategic asset in support of your organization's overall mission and goals, the ACCME has produced an educational tool entitled Positioning Your CME Program for Organizational Impact. This series of exercises can be done individually or in a group, such as with your CME planning committee or departmental staff.
I have a good understanding of what we do and why we do it; what’s next?
STEP 4: SIMPLIFY-EVOLVE-IMPROVE
In Criteria 12-15, the ACCME establishes the expectation that accredited providers will reflect on their processes (the way you did in STEP 3) and make improvements. After you have completed your own reflection, take the opportunity to think about, suggest, or make improvements to your processes. While recognizing that your co-workers and/or committee members may be more experienced, remember that your new and objective understanding of the ACCME expectations enables you to provide valuable feedback for your CME program.
The ACCME considers it a great strength of the accreditation system that each provider can make choices about meeting the ACCME expectations based on its environment, resources, and needs. We also consider it a strength that the charge to reflect and improve is built into the requirements themselves, because this reflection and improvement helps the whole community to continue to maximize its resources and focus on developing and delivering relevant CME
We hope that this tutorial has laid out concrete steps to help you understand the ACCME expectations, review and reflect on your organization’s practices, and evolve your CME program.
To support your continuing professional development, we offer these tools on our Web site that will keep you informed of CME accreditation developments and connected with the CME community:
- On the www.accme.org home page, you will find links to upcoming ACCME educational events, the latest news releases, and Highlights, which includes CME news, announcements, and updates.
- On the News & Publications section on our Web site, we post regular, timely communications to inform CME stakeholders, the media, and the public about important developments in accredited CME. We recommend that you sign up for The ACCME Report, the ACCME’s monthly enewsletter.
- We post video interviews with your CME colleagues and healthcare leaders who share their approaches to planning effective education. Find these interviews under the Education section of our Web site.
- We also provide Tutorials on our Web site (also in the Education section) that aggregate resources, offering you comprehensive packages about specific topics.
If at any time you have any questions about the ACCME accreditation expectations, educational events, or online tools and resources, feel free to contact the ACCME by using the online Contact Us form. Completing the Contact Us form will help us direct your question to the right staff person quickly and send a response to you as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can call 312-527-9200 or send an email to info@accmeorg.