Since its founding in 1981, the ACCME has focused on setting and maintaining accreditation requirements that are relevant to physicians’ lifelong learning needs and responsive to changes in the health care environment. The purpose of the ACCME accreditation requirements is to ensure that CME is independent, based on valid content, and contributes to health care improvement for patients and their communities.
Promoting Educational Excellence and Independence in CME: The ACCME develops and updates its accreditation requirements through a deliberative process that includes reviewing and analyzing relevant research and obtaining feedback from multiple constituents, including accredited providers. There are three parts to the ACCME accreditation requirements: the Accreditation Criteria, the ACCME Standards for Commercial SupportSM, and the ACCME policies. For your convenience, we have created a compilation of the accreditation requirements in one document. The PDF includes the ACCME Accreditation Criteria, the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME ActivitiesSM, and the ACCME Policies. A PDF version of only the Standards for Commercial Support, designed for your easy reference in two-column format with a cover page, is available here.
The Accreditation Criteria
Released in 2006, the Accreditation Criteria are based on a learner-centered, continuous improvement model of CME. The Accreditation Criteria call on accredited providers to offer educational activities that address physicians’ real-world practice needs, whether their scope of practice is in clinical care, research, health care administration, or other areas of medicine. The Criteria state that CME programs should be designed to change either physicians’ competence, by teaching them strategies for translating new knowledge into action, or physicians’ performance (what they actually do in practice), or patient outcomes. Accredited providers must also evaluate their programs’ effectiveness in achieving these goals.
The Accreditation Criteria, which incorporate the updated 2004 Standards for Commercial SupportSM: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities, were created to position the CME enterprise as a strategic asset to the quality improvement and patient safety imperatives of the US health care system. They were designed to align with emerging continuing professional development systems such as the American Board of Medical Specialties Maintenance of Certification® (MOC) and the Federation of State Medical Boards Maintenance of Licensure (MOL) initiatives, and hospital accreditation requirements such as The Joint Commission standards.
The Accreditation Criteria are divided into three levels. To achieve Provisional Accreditation, a two-year term, providers must comply with all Criteria (1, 2, 3, and 7–12). Providers seeking full Accreditation or reaccreditation for a four-year term must comply with Criteria (1–13). To achieve Accreditation with Commendation, a six-year term, providers must comply with all Criteria.
The 2006 Accreditation Criteria are built upon two earlier sets of accreditation guidelines: the Seven Essentials, established in 1982, and the Essential Areas and Their Elements, or System98, released in 1998.
ACCME Standards for Commercial SupportSM: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities
The 2004 ACCME Standards for Commercial SupportSM: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities (Accreditation Criteria 7–10) are designed to make ensure that CME activities are independent and free of commercial bias. The Standards impose stringent restrictions on CME providers’ interactions with drug /device companies and other companies the ACCME defines as a commercial interest. The ACCME allows providers to accept company funding for CME activities, but prohibits any commercial influence, direct or indirect, over CME content.
Building on guidelines that the ACCME first issued in 1987 and formally adopted in 1992, the 2004 ACCME Standards for Commercial Support comprise six Standards: Independence, Resolution of Personal Conflicts of Interest, Appropriate Use of Commercial Support, Appropriate Management of Associated Commercial Promotion, Content and Format without Commercial Bias, and Disclosures Relevant to Potential Commercial Bias.
When making decisions about implementing the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support, the ACCME says that CME providers must always defer to independence from commercial interests, transparency, and the separation of CME from product promotion. In other words, the purpose of CME must be to serve physicians’ learning and practice needs and to promote public health.
ACCME policies supplement the Accreditation Criteria and the Standards for Commercial Support: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities. These policies offer more specific guidelines on areas including CME program and activity administration, educational activity formats, and compliance with the Standards for Commercial Support. In some cases policies are developed to address emerging issues. Accredited providers must adhere to the ACCME policies that are relevant to their organizations, as well as to the Accreditation Criteria and the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support.