Accreditation Council for CME Includes Providers' Responsibilities to Learners in Complaints Process

ACCME increases accountability of continuing medical education complaints process
Chicago, IL
December 21, 2010


As part of its ongoing commitment to accredited CME's accountability to the public, and in response to feedback from stakeholders, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) has decided that accredited providers should have obligations to learners if an activity is found Noncompliant during the ACCME Process for Handling Complaints Regarding ACCME Accredited Providers. This is the procedure the ACCME uses to respond to complaints from the public and the CME community about ACCME accredited providers' compliance with accreditation requirements.

The ACCME continues to balance accountability for patient safety with the confidentiality for CME providers that is an integral part of its complaints process. With this revision, CME providers will be required to offer corrective information to learners, planners and faculty if an activity is found to be Noncompliant with Standard for Commercial Support 1 (independence), Standard for Commercial Support 5 (freedom from commercial bias), or the ACCME’s content validation policies. Providers will determine how to communicate the corrective information and are under no obligation to communicate that the activity was found Noncompliant. The ACCME Standards for Commercial Support and content validation policies ensure that accredited CME activities are based on valid content and independent of commercial interests.

The ACCME sought feedback on this proposal from the CME community and the public through a formal call for comment earlier this year. The call for comment and the responses are posted on the ACCME Web site.

"The addition to the ACCME's revised complaints process increases the accredited CME system’s accountability, while empowering providers to develop their own strategies for communicating corrective information to learners, thus serving the best interests of the continuing medical education community, physician learners and the public," said Murray Kopelow, MD, ACCME Chief Executive.

Listen to an audio commentary by Dr. Kopelow about the addition to the complaints process. 

Balancing Transparency with Confidentiality

This is the second revision to the complaints process the ACCME has made recently. In July, 2010, the ACCME revised the process to balance transparency with providers' confidentiality, following a model similar to the ACCME's accreditation review procedures.

The revised process includes the following.

  1. The ACCME will keep confidential the identity of providers that have an activity found in Noncompliance through the complaints process.
  2. When the ACCME changes a providers' accreditation status as a result of the complaints process, the new status will be public information, but the ACCME will not disclose the reason for the change in status. Lists of accredited providers, including their accreditation status, are posted on the ACCME Web site.
  3. The ACCME will make public blinded examples and summaries from the complaints process for the purpose of educating providers and other stakeholders. This public information will not identify providers.

The proposal for these revisions received widespread support from the CME community and other stakeholders during the call for comment, which was released in January. The call for comment and the responses are posted on the ACCME Web site.

ACCME Oversight

The ACCME’s purpose is to develop rigorous standards to ensure that CME activities across the country are independent, free from commercial bias, based on valid content, effective in meeting physicians’ learning and practice needs, and contribute to health care quality and safety. The ACCME is responsible for overseeing accredited providers' compliance with accreditation requirements.

The complaints process described above is only one arm of the ACCME’s oversight system. The ACCME monitors accredited providers' compliance with its requirements through a rigorous, multilevel process accreditation review process. Each year, the ACCME reviews approximately 200 providers, representing about 30 percent of the provider pool. Providers found in Noncompliance with any accreditation requirement must submit Progress Reports to demonstrate that they have come into compliance. Providers that fail to come into compliance may be put on Probation or lose their accreditation status. 


The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education is a not-for-profit organization based in Chicago that is responsible for accrediting U.S. institutions that offer continuing medical education through a voluntary, self-regulatory system. The ACCME also has a system for recognizing state medical societies as accreditors for local organizations offering CME.

The ACCME's mission is to identify, develop and promote standards for quality continuing medical education that improves health care for patients and their communities. There are currently approximately 2,200 accredited CME providers in the United States, whose educational activities draw more than 17 million health care practitioner participants annually.

The ACCME's member organizations include the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association for Hospital Medical Education, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the Federation of State Medical Boards of the U.S. Inc. 

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