Victoria Ceh, left, oversaw
to make the International Society of
Hair Restoration Surgery one of the most
exemplary CME providers in the United States.
Diane Alberson, right, of the Society of Critical
Care Medicine created an ACCME-friendly
tool kit for developing new programs.
Most companies that provide
continuing medical education undergo a rigorous
tire-kicking every four years by the Chicago-based Accreditation
Council for Continuing Medical Education. The process involves a
written report, often of several hundred pages, and a comprehensive
site visit. To prepare for accreditation, CME providers are given a
set of general guidelines that must be translated into specific
actions -- not an easy task. To an organization that has to undergo
this process for the first time, the experience can be
Despite appearances, the ACCME is not
out to make the lives of CME providers difficult. As an aid, the
council publishes a list of those few providers who have achieved
“exemplary compliance” on one or more of the 10 required elements
for accreditation. The best of these companies have been granted a
special “accreditation with commendation” status, a category that
gives providers added prestige and an extra two years before having
to renew. These stars of the industry -- those who received
commendation and those who are on track to -- were only too happy
to share their best practices with M&C.
The wrench in the gears is that the
ACCME has announced a major change in the way accreditation will be
granted (see “New Criteria on the Horizon”), which will
require CME providers to step up their efforts in the coming years.
What became apparent when talking to these meeting planners,
however, is that the best companies already are doing most of what
the ACCME will be requiring. What’s equally clear is that
groundbreaking methods for planning continuing medical education --
good record keeping, constant tweaking and active collection of
feedback -- are applicable not just to medical meetings, but to
meetings in all industries.
Exemplary in: Needs Assessment, Activity Evaluation,
Benchmark Medical Consultants is a
Sacramento, Calif.-based company that provides administrative
support for doctors who serve as medical experts in courtrooms.
After the company received standard accreditation in 2000, Craig
Vreeken, CME director, wanted to do even better. Vreeken went to an
accreditation workshop put on by the ACCME in Chicago to figure out
how to improve the company’s score. He says it was very helpful to
see what documents the site surveyors use to evaluate a program.
Now that he knows what they’re looking for, he approaches every
activity thinking about how to achieve an exemplary score.
Benchmark takes special care in
collecting attendee needs-assessment data. The company surveys
attendees once a year, including some verbal interviews, and keeps
up on the hot topics in the industry by reviewing journal articles
and glancing at competitors’ agendas.
The company also compiles report cards
on the doctors’ courtroom testimony and gives individual feedback
based on their performance. Those reports make great fodder for
deciding which topics to cover in future education sessions. “If 35
percent of our doctors are not addressing one topic, we really
should address it in an educational activity,” says Vreeken.
Another source of data comes from the
doctors’ legal clients, who may or may not be happy with aspects of
doctor testimony. Benchmark keeps a spreadsheet of all the doctors’
performance ratings and then targets the weakest areas.
Constant benchmarking also allows
Vreeken to show that his programs were effective. If the doctors
who attended a particular session improve in their ratings on that
subject, the improvement can be linked pretty convincingly to the
“We know our CME activities have made
an impact on the performance of doctors,” says Vreeken. “That’s
exactly what the ACCME is looking for in terms of outcomes.”
To education providers looking to
improve measurements of success, Vreeken suggests looking closely
at what measurements already are taken, and brainstorming ways to
use that information.