The health professions are not only defined by expertise, but also by a dedication to put service of others above self-interest. When individuals enter the healthcare professions, they commit to upholding professional and ethical standards including acting in a patient’s best interests, protecting the patient from harm, respecting the patient, fostering informed choices, and promoting equity in healthcare.
While the interests of healthcare and business sometimes diverge, both are legitimate, and collaboration between healthcare professionals and industry can advance patient care. Since healthcare professionals serve as the legally mandated gatekeepers of medications and devices, and trusted authorities when advising patients, they must protect their learning environment from industry influence to ensure they remain true to their ethical commitments.
As the stewards of the learning environment for healthcare professionals, the accredited continuing education community plays a critical role in navigating the complex interface between industry and the health professions. Organizations accredited to provide continuing education, known as accredited providers, are responsible for ensuring that healthcare professionals have access to learning and skill development activities that are trustworthy and are based on best practices and high-quality evidence. These activities must serve the needs of patients and not the interests of industry.
This independence is the cornerstone of accredited continuing education. Accredited continuing education must provide healthcare professionals, as individuals and teams, with a protected space to learn, teach, and engage in scientific discourse free from influence from organizations that may have an incentive to insert commercial bias into education.
The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) acts as the steward of the Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education, which have been drafted to be applicable to accredited continuing education across the health professions. The Standards are designed to:
- Ensure that accredited continuing education serves the needs of patients and the public.
- Present learners with only accurate, balanced, scientifically justified recommendations.
- Assure healthcare professionals and teams that they can trust accredited continuing education to help them deliver safe, effective, cost-effective, compassionate care that is based on best practice and evidence.
- Create a clear, unbridgeable separation between accredited continuing education and marketing and sales.