Those of us who have been involved in CME for a while have gotten used to change, and many of us welcome most changes that have occurred through the years. The current CME climate, however, is one of caution, concern, and confusion. Accredited and non-accredited providers are disappearing, predominantly in the for-profit medical education company space, but I anticipate this trend will spread to other provider types as they decide whether the new environment can support organizations that were established to work best under the old accreditation model.

At first blush it may appear that the disappearances are related only to the changing rules about commercial support, but perhaps this is only part of the story. When the Accreditation Council for CME released its updated accreditation criteria in 2006, there was a collective gasp among all concerned, which was followed by a prolonged period of reflection and complaining — complaining to anyone who would listen, and complaining about things that may not have even been understood.

Facing Up to the New Criteria

I can recall vividly receiving dozens of telephone calls asking me what I was going to do in response to the release of these “terrible changes to accreditation.” My response was: “I am going to follow the new accreditation criteria. They seem to make sense and will drive us to be better educators.” Over the course of the ensuing two years, we did what we had to do in order to have our files comply with the new criteria, and we educated our internal staff and external partners. We developed educationally sound activities and interventions. And we prepared for our reaccreditation survey.

Our timing was very unfortunate, as we received our initial (provisional) accreditation in July 2007 under the old system, and then had to apply for reaccreditation in the July 2009 cycle, under the updated criteria. As we prepared our documentation, we realized how much we still needed to change and adapt, and after attending the ACCME session at the Alliance for CME 2009 annual meeting, we learned even more about what we had to change. We hit some barriers along the way where we felt more confused than prepared, but we learned that we were not alone and that the majority of people we spoke with who were preparing for reaccreditation were feeling the same way we were.

Well, we submitted our documentation and conducted our survey. Now we are waiting to hear from the ACCME about our status. While ensuring compliance with the new criteria, we continue to develop into better educators.

There, I said it! The new criteria, in my opinion, almost guide providers to appropriately document all aspects of the activities that they certify.

What do you think about the new criteria now that they have been around long enough to have affected daily activities? Where will we be five years from now? Send me an e-mail and let me know what you think.

Lawrence Sherman, FACME, CCMEP, is president and CEO of Physicians Academy for Clinical and Management Excellence, New York. A 15-year CME veteran, he is a frequent lecturer on topics related to the strategic development, dissemination, and evaluation of CME activities. Reach him at LS@physacad.com.