Accreditation Council for CME Responds to CMS Proposal to Rescind Continuing Education Exclusion in Open Payments Program

ACCME Recommends Retaining CE Exclusion for Accreditors that Adhere to Standards for Commercial Support
Chicago, IL
August 21, 2014

The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) has sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in response to its proposal to rescind the Continuing Education Exclusion (§ 403.904(g)(1)) of the Open Payments program.

The ACCME believes that CMS should not rescind the continuing education (CE) exclusion. The ACCME recommends that accredited CE should be exempt from reporting within the CMS Open Payments program if the accreditation system utilizes the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support℠: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities and successfully completes a verification process to ensure that it evaluates its CE providers for compliance with the Standards using the same rules, data sources, and interpretations as the ACCME.

Safeguarding Independence

This verification process would fulfill the independence aspirations of the Open Payments program. The Standards for Commercial Support include the essential elements for independence that are described in the Open Payments program. Under the Standards, commercial interests are not allowed to pay speakers directly nor are they allowed to suggest or select speakers. In addition, the Standards safeguard independence by requiring the identification and resolution of conflict of interest; the appropriate management of funds derived from industry; the absolute separation of promotion from education; the freedom from commercial bias; and the full disclosure of relevant financial relationships, as well as of any commercial support.

The Standards for Commercial Support were first implemented in 1991 and were updated in 2004. They were the first accreditation standards written to implement the separation of promotion from education and they have become a national model. The 2004 Standards for Commercial Support were approved by each of the ACCME’s seven member organizations, which represent the profession of medicine and include physician licensing and credentialing bodies. The accreditation bodies of dentistry, family medicine, nursing, optometry, osteopathy, pharmacy, and physician assistants base their accreditation requirements on the Standards. The Standards are recognized nationally, by the profession, by the regulators, and by the government as protecting the public from commercial bias in accredited CME.

Professional Self-Regulation

By using the Standards for Commercial Support verification process as the mechanism for ensuring independence, CMS would leverage the long-established system of professional self-regulation in continuing education. Since 1987, the ACCME has administered an oversight system for other CE accreditors. This ACCME verification system includes 42 US state and territorial medical societies, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the Joint Accreditation for Interprofessional EducationTM  program created in partnership by the ACCME, the ACPE, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

In its letter, the ACCME offers the Standards for Commercial Support verification process as a service to CMS, explaining that it could be administered by the ACCME or by the Joint Accreditation for Interprofessional Education program, if that were acceptable to the partners (ACCME, ACPE, and ANCC).

“We offer this service [to CMS] to facilitate the appropriate exclusion of accredited continuing education from reporting under the Open Payments program,” Murray Kopelow, MD, President and CEO, ACCME, states in the letter. “We propose to offer a service to the healthcare professions of the US–and the people that we all serve – that we believe will facilitate health professionals’ engagement in valid, practice-based, independent continuing education that has been shown, unequivocally, to improve their abilities and performance-in-practice in the healthcare system.”

Download the letter here.

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The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) is a nonprofit organization based in Chicago that is responsible for accrediting 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 healthcare for patients and their communities. There are approximately 2,000 accredited CME providers within the ACCME accreditation system, whose activities educate more than 24 million healthcare practitioner participants annually.

The ACCME's member organizations, which represent the profession of medicine and include physician licensing and credentialing bodies, are 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 US, Inc.

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