An ongoing challenge facing CME professionals is the Accreditation Council for CME's updated accreditation criteria. As many CME providers are faced with limited staff, decreasing funding, and increasing responsibilities, it's natural to feel overwhelmed at the thought of assuming any additional tasks. But here's a bit of perspective: Have you ever watched someone juggle ten bowling pins and wondered, “How'd they do that?” Well, the answer is simple: They start with one pin at a time. Similarly, if we approach implementing the updated accreditation criteria or adopting any new best practice with a “one at a time” mentality, the task becomes far less intimidating, and it's easier to envision success.

Build on Your Strengths

Often, when we are faced with adopting a new practice, we completely abandon the old one. The updated accreditation criteria build upon the earlier requirements, the Essential Areas and Their Elements, something we as accredited providers already follow as daily practice. A logical starting point is to examine your existing best practices. Review both sets of guidelines — the updated criteria and the Essential Areas and Their Elements. Look for the similarities. Then highlight the differences, which aren't as great as one might think. Start with your mission statement (Essential Area/Element 1). Is your mission clearly reflected in your daily practices, as well as in the activities you design and implement? If not, where are the areas forimprovement?

Next, review your existing internal policies and procedures. How close (or far) are you from meeting the updated criteria? Map out where you are versus where you want to be, and then implement a reasonable timeline for making improvements based on your existing business framework. Focus on the strengths and positive aspects of your overall CME/CE program.

Your Resources

ACCME's Web site offers a very practical, updated accreditation criteria tool kit (available at accme.org); it's even segmented according to provider type. This is an excellent resource for helping providers get started. Another great resource is your own organization's accreditation self-study. Don't let it collect dust on a bookshelf somewhere for four (or six) years! What improvements did you plan to make? How do they correspond with the updated accreditation criteria? Start with the easiest change(s) so that you can build momentum. Track your progress during the course of each year of your accreditation cycle. Keep records of what you've accomplished, and measure the results.

Each One, Teach One; Each One, Reach One

Sharing what we do well is critical to the success of our industry. Whether it's using a public forum, such as conferences and publications, or simply picking up the phone and calling one another, let's find ways to collectively address how to successfully implement the updated accreditation criteria in our overall CME programs.

Ann C. Lichti is the assistant director of operations for Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc. Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. She has worked in the healthcare industry (both CME/CE and clinical research) for six years. Reach her at ann.lichti@veritasime.com.

Nathalie Harden, manager, CME and compliance, Applied Clinical Education, New York, has more than 10 years' experience in academic medicine and medical education. Contact her at nharden@appliedcme.com.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not constitute the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education, Inc. or Applied Clinical Education.