During a planning call for a new commercially supported educational initiative, Staci Stickler, CME director for Conservative Medical College (the accredited provider for the series of activities), is surprised to learn that the school’s longtime educational partner/service provider, Educational Innovation and Outcomes, previously received funding from the grantor to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment related to the therapeutic area that is the subject of the grant and wants to share the results with the planning team. (EIO consults on educational design and conducts evaluations and outcomes assessments for CMC and many other accredited providers.)
Staci questions Max Moneymaker, EIO’s partner liaison director, to learn more about the company’s relationships with grantors. She learns that needs assessments are a core component of EIO’s business; often these are funded by grants departments, but they’re ocassionally funded by marketing teams.
The planning call concludes, but Staci is not convinced that using EIO’s needs assessment data is appropriate, although she cannot pinpoint a compliance violation.
Defining “Commercial Interest”
Is EIO a commercial interest? Can EIO partner with an accredited provider?
Overstreet: EIO’s status as a commercial interest may depend on which department the funding came from, the purpose and dissemination of the work conducted, EIO’s firewall and related policies, and other factors. In this case, it is not obvious how EIO would be defined, as its business model is not clearly addressed by existing accreditation guidelines and standards.
Parochka: CMC should carefully evaluate EIO’s prior work that relates specifically to the new initiative to determine the funding source of the needs assessment. Were the funds obtained from the supporter’s educational grants department or from the marketing department? Staci should also review CMC’s own compliance policies and the various regulatory documents to determine if they can safely partner with EIO on this initiative.
Can commercially supported needs assessments be used by providers to design educational activities?
Overstreet: The ownership of the work product (it is not content that will be certified for credit) depends on the terms of the grant or . If the work has been published or widely disseminated, all providers have access to the information and can therefore use it to support educational grants and content development. If the results of the work are not publicly available, then the data obviously cannot be accessed and used to support grants and development of CME activities.
Parochka: Providers should be diligent about investigating which organization actually conducted the needs assessment. Commercial interests cannot directly create the needs assessment findings used to develop educational activities. However, they can fund another service provider to conduct the needs assessment, since the Standards for Commercial Support don’t address this.
Overstreet: And, if the needs assessment has not been published and if EIO has signed confidentiality or other non-disclosure agreements with the assessment’s funder, then EIO should not use those results in other settings nor share the information with other educational partners.
Karen Overstreet, EdD, RPh, FACME, CCMEP, is a medical education consultant in Raleigh, N.C. Reach her at KOverstreetne@gmail.com. Jacqueline Parochka, EdD, FACME, is president and CEO, Excellence in Continuing Education Ltd., Gurnee, Ill.; and partner, PTR Educational Consultants. Reach her at JacquelineParochka@comcast.net.