As an editor, I have a great respect for the power of the pen (or, more apropos these days, the keyboard). And I know the continuing medical education and pharmaceutical communities share my slight obsession with words. After all, you’re right there with me scrutinizing, comma by semicolon, every document that comes from the Accreditation Council for CME, in particular, but also those that come from pretty much every other organization that influences this business.
Remember the great ruckus of the 2006 ACCME Accreditation Criteria update, which had us all parsing and analyzing and trying to come to conclusions about what had to be done to be in compliance, or possibly even to achieve the holy grail of exemplary compliance? Like former President Clinton, we all were trying to define what is is. Not to mention the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals—we’re still trying to figure out exactly what qualifies as a “modest” meal or an “appropriate” accommodation. And we all pulled out our red pencils with glee when the began sending out calls for comment on potential policy decisions. The increase in transparency is, in my opinion, a great leap forward and a good way to ensure the accreditor gets the full range of stakeholder responses before making decisions. But still, reading through the comments gives me one more reason to think that, to survive in this business, anyone who isn’t a word-dissector by nature must become one out of necessity.
Now it just happened again, with the American Board of Medical Specialties’ newly released white paper on CME for maintenance of certification. I had to laugh when Rockpointe Corp.’s Tom Sullivan likened it in a post on his Policy and Medicine blog to a Picasso painting that leaves its meaning open to interpretation. As I read the paper repeatedly, I found myself coming to different conclusions, depending on which particular lens of paranoia I was reading it through at the time. I just wanted to shake it and say, “Just tell me what you mean, darnit!” But alas, we’ll likely have to wait for the next iteration to get our questions answered definitively (or, more likely, several iterations down the road).
I seriously doubt we’ll ever get a vaccine for the plague of vague that periodically infects communiqués to this community. But even if what we got was clear as a bell, something tells me we’re so accustomed by now to parsing and analyzing and interpreting that we wouldn’t be able to stop our inner word docs from going to town. And that’s OK. Though the uncertainty makes us anxious, it also drives us to really think about the issues in all possible ways. Nothing but good can come from that.