The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) recently released its August 2012 newsletter. The newsletter addresses a number of important topics for continuing medical education (CME) providers and stakeholders including, but not limited to:
- A summary of the ACCME Board of Directors July 2012 Meeting;
- Simplified requirements for communicating information in Internet CME activities and Enduring Materials; and
- The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) issuance of a final Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for Extended-Release/Long-Acting Opioid Analgesics
July 2012 ACCME Board of Directors Meeting
Held July 26-27, the Board ratified 61 accreditation and reaccreditation decisions, including 20 providers (33%) that received Accreditation with Commendation, which confers a 6-year term of accreditation—this included the Potomac Center for Medical Education (PCME). As of July 2012, there are 702 ACCME-accredited providers and 1,338 providers accredited by ACCME Recognized Accreditors (state or territory medical societies that accredit local organizations offering CME). In addition:
- Twenty-three (38%) received Accreditation; 18 of these providers (30%) are required to submit progress reports; 5 (8%) do not need to submit progress reports.
- Nine providers (15%) were placed on Probation and are required to submit progress reports.
- All of the 9 initial applicants received Provisional Accreditation (15% of the total; 100% of initial applicants).
The Board ratified 28 progress report decisions. Of those, 23 (82%) progress reports demonstrated compliance with all ACCME requirements previously found not in compliance, and were accepted. Four progress reports (14%) failed to demonstrate compliance in all requirements and the providers are required to submit another progress report. One progress report decision (4%) was deferred.
For those who criticize CME providers, particularly those that accept commercial support, this summary should provide sufficient evidence that the ACCME not only has appropriate firewalls to protect against undue influence or bias, but that the ACCME also engages in significant oversight of providers and enforces its rules and regulations, including its Standards for Commercial Support (SCS). With 15% of providers being placed on probation and another 30% being required to submit progress reports, it is clear that the ACCME takes compliance very seriously.
The Board also convened conversations with leadership from the recognized state/territory medical society CME accreditation system to discuss the evolution, standards, expectations, obligations, challenges, and opportunities facing accredited CME. The Board asked participants about the value their accreditation program brings to their state, about the value of ACCME support and services, and how the ACCME can continue to support their accreditation programs.
Participants included ACCME member organization liaisons; members of the Committee for Review and Recognition (CRR); and CEOs, executive leadership, and staff from 38 recognized state/territory medical societies. The conversations were part of the Board’s ongoing process for facilitating the implementation of the ACCME 2011 strategic imperatives: Foster ACCME Leadership and Engagement; Evolve and Simplify the Accreditation Standards, Process, and System; Explore and Build a More Diversified Portfolio of ACCME Products and Services.
Internet-based CME and Enduring Materials: Modifying Communication Requirements
In response to questions from accredited providers and technological advancements, the Board re-examined its requirements regarding the communication of information to learners as described in the Internet CME and Enduring Materials policies. The Board agreed to simplify its interpretation of the requirements because of the evolution of technology and learners' increasing familiarity with technology.
The Internet CME and Enduring Materials policies require providers to communicate to learners information such as the activity’s principal faculty and their credentials, estimated time to complete the activity, hardware/software requirements, the providers' privacy and confidentiality policy, and other information. The policies state that this information must be communicated to learners prior to the activity. Previously, the ACCME has interpreted “prior to the activity” to mean that learners must be made to pass through the information. The ACCME did not consider it acceptable for providers to use optional links in electronic CME activities that allowed learners to go directly to the CME content and bypass the information required by the Internet CME and Enduring Materials policies.
ACCME will now be acceptable, in effect immediately, for providers to choose from various electronic means, such as tabs, links, “click here” buttons or rollover text, or other electronic means to make the required information accessible. The Board recognized that the use of tabs or links to disseminate information is now the online standard.
For CME activities in which the learner participates electronically (e.g., via the Internet), all required information specified in the ACCME’s Enduring Materials: Definition and Requirements Policy and the Internet CME Policy must be made accessible to the learner prior to the learner beginning the CME activity.
This modification does not apply to disclosure information required in the Standards for Commercial Support 6: Disclosures Relevant to Potential Commercial Bias to the learner prior to the beginning of the CME activity. Learners must be made to pass through the information in order to engage in the CME activity. The use of tabs, links, or other electronic means that allow learners to go directly to the CME content and bypass the information are not acceptable methods for complying with Standard for Commercial Support 6. The ACCME has provided Q&A to explain the modified requirements.
ACCME’s Decision-Making Process: Ensuring Consistency and Accuracy
The Board heard a report from the Quality Improvement Committee about an audit of the ACCME's decision-making process for the July 2012 cohort, which included an analysis of the internal controls the ACCME employs to ensure the consistency and accuracy of decision-making. The Board agreed that the ACCME’s internal controls are effective in supporting valid and consistent accreditation decisions. The Board will continue to monitor and improve, where necessary, its internal controls. This most recent audit builds on the work of the Board of Directors 2010 Monitoring Task Force which spent a year reviewing and analyzing the ACCME’s internal controls and determined that the process for ensuring the consistency and fairness of accreditation decision-making should continue to be a high priority.
ACCME 2012 Bylaws
In accordance with ACCME bylaws, the revised bylaws became effective July 22, 2012. The ACCME updated its documents and policies to support implementation of the 2012 bylaws.
FDA Releases REMS for Extended-Release/Long-Acting Opioids
As we reported back in July, FDA released its REMS for extended-release and long-acting (ER/LA) opioid analgesics. The centerpiece of the ER/LA Opioid Analgesic REMS is a prescriber education program about the risks of opioid medications as well as safe prescribing and safe use practices. The FDA developed and issued a blueprint, which contains the core educational messages. The education will be controlled, designed, and delivered by accredited continuing health care education providers, based on the blueprint. The first page of the blueprint says that “accrediting bodies and CE providers will ensure that the CE activities developed under this REMS will be in compliance with the standards of the ACCME or another CE accrediting body.”
The education will be funded by a consortium of opioid manufacturers, the REMS Program Companies (RPC), through educational grants to accredited CE providers, so that it is available free of charge or at nominal cost to prescribers. “We appreciate that the FDA recognizes the value of accredited education and chose to leverage the CE system to carry out this important public health initiative,” said Murray Kopelow, MD, ACCME President and CEO, in an audio commentary. “Accredited CME providers can base their activities on the blueprint and be in compliance with the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support.”
ACCME Participates in AMA, ABMS, AAMC Meetings
The ACCME participated in several meetings during the past few months as part of its ongoing collaboration with member organizations. Through joint leadership initiatives, the ACCME and member organizations identify and implement strategies for improving physicians' continuing professional development and patient care. For example, the ACCME participated in a meeting of the Coalition for Physician Accountability held in August in Philadelphia. They also participated in a meeting hosted by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. The Coalition comprises national organizations responsible for physician assessment, accreditation, licensure, and credentialing.