The Accreditation Council for CME has issued a policy for Internet-based CME. The final guidelines are a streamlined version of the draft policy disseminated for comment last August.

The first section addresses the separation of promotion and education, stipulating that:

  • drug firms' product Web sites cannot feature accredited CME activities;

  • providers can include links to pharma sites before and after — but not during — an educational activity, as long as learners are clearly notified that they're leaving the educational site;

  • and all advertising is prohibited within educational activities.

The second part of the guidelines addresses usability and ethics, requiring providers to inform participants of the hardware/software needed for the activity, post contact information should learners need help, and inform learners about the site's privacy and confidentiality policies.

The policy also addresses the contentious issue of intellectual property. Accredited providers have expressed much consternation about CME Web sites that have replicated their content without permission. The policy states that online CME providers must be able to document that they own the copyright or that they have received permission to use the copyrighted materials.

In other ACCME news:

Content Validation Reconsidered — In January, the ACCME issued a draft proposal requiring that the clinical content of CME activities be based on generally accepted science. While some providers supported the move, others contended that CME is a forum for new science and that the requirements would impose a huge burden.The ACCME content validation task force has considered the feedback and will now decide whether or not to go forward with such a policy. One possible alternative is to employ a surveillance system whereby the ACCME examines a percentage of CME activities to see if they meet those criteria, says Murray Kopelow, MD, executive director, ACCME. No matter what route the ACCME takes, “the essence of the proposal — that clinical recommendations made during CME activities should be valid — will survive,” he says.