by Tom Isler | October 01, 2007

Planners who run continuing medical education programs are under the gun, trying to cope with new policy mandates from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education as well as grappling with new requirements for organizations seeking accreditation from the Chicago-based council.

On Aug. 24, ACCME released policy updates that redefined the council’s Standards for Commercial Support, which govern the financial relationships between companies that produce or sell health-care products or services and organizations that produce CME programs.

The new policies, to go into effect over the next three months, are designed to clarify existing policies and further safeguard the educational content of CME programs from the influence of drug and other health-care companies.

According to Dr. Murray Kopelow, chief executive of ACCME, these mandates are not a direct response to the rebuke ACCME received in April from the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, which said health-care companies still had too many opportunities to affect programs under current ACCME rules. Kopelow said he believes the new policies “will have significant positive impact on the credibility of the system, benefiting all our providers and the system as a whole.”

The impact of the updates still is being calculated. What’s more certain is that stringent new guidelines for accreditation by ACCME will have a major influence on CME providers.

Wanda Johnson, CMP, senior director of meetings and education for Chevy Chase, Md.-based The Endocrine Society, who in August gave a presentation on the subject at ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership’s annual meeting in Chicago, said the changes represented “a revolution, not an evolution,” of ACCME requirements.

The new guidelines likely will require CME providers to craft new mission statements; to measure and document virtually every aspect of their program development; to define “gaps” in physicians’ knowledge; and then, for some CME programs, to verify how doctors’ behavior changes as a result of the education.

Additionally, beginning next fall, organizations seeking the highest levels of accreditation will have to demonstrate that they constantly are evaluating and improving their programs.