SINCE MAY 1, PEOPLE in CME Land have been talking about the implementation of the updated Standards for Commercial Support, particularly the resolution of conflicts of interest (COI). Asking course directors, instructors, planners, and CME committees to comply with new requirements can be daunting.

Here are some ways you can help yourself and your team:

  • Launch a PR Campaign

    Your COI process is new and different, and there are many new requirements for the physician. Start a public relations campaign to introduce the changes, and let physicians know that this is part of a nationwide movement.

    Create a Guide to Conflict of Interest in CME that can be attached to your PR effort. The guide would include the definition of COI, how COI is resolved at your institution, what is disclosed to learners, and other important information, including your Learner's Bill of Rights. (You can view a sample Learner's Bill of Rights on our Web site at

  • Position COI Management as a Quality Tool

    Look at the upside of COI management. You are starting to think about the impact of real or apparent conflicts on the overall quality of a CME activity, focusing on the use of evidence-based information, and looking at the impact of educational content on patient care. All of this renewed focus on the content will raise the quality of your educational offerings.

  • Promote CME in the Public Interest

    According to recently released 2004 Accreditation Council for CME statistics, we spend more than $2 billion on CME annually — of which $1 billion comes from commercial support. With this much money at stake, it is necessary and appropriate to take steps to assure the public that CME is of the highest quality and not biased.

  • Automate COI Management

    In our opinion, the management and resolution of COI is best served by automating the process. Automation clearly will make the job easier, but your physician customers will be served through automation as well. We recommend that the process start with the faculty letter, which is e-mailed to instructors and others involved in the planning process. An em-bedded hyperlink will lead the recipient directly to a Web site that contains the COI disclosure format.

Depending on your policy on COI, the Web site will probe respondents with simple drop-down boxes that fit your resolution policy. Responses to questions posed will determine the other questions that are asked. Responses will be organized behind the scenes on the Web site and forwarded to the person on your team responsible for resolution of COI. Collected information will be made transparent to learners with ease as the Web site also will prepare actual disclosure information.

Give Change a Chance

Change takes time to implement. Work with your course director, instructors, other planners, and your CME committee to give them the tools they need and the education about COI that will enable them to begin the process of resolving conflicts of interest as they pertain to the CME activities they plan. In the end, everyone will be happier. The more you support this process, the better off you will be in documenting your compliance with this new requirement. Before you know it, the buzz will be about something else. Tomorrow is another day, and with it will come more change. Hold on to your hat!

Steven M. Passin is president of the CME consulting firm Steve Passin & Associates LLC in Newtown Square, Pa. He has also served as deputy health secretary for California. Contact him at Susan O'Brien is senior associate, Steve Passin & Associates. Contact her at