As continuing education providers see their funding sources shrink and face increased scrutiny regarding content validity and fair-balanced activities, their ability to work successfully and profitably with joint/co-sponsors has become increasingly important.

Pooling Strengths and Resources

If you are a nonaccredited CE provider, working with an accredited provider in a joint sponsorship relationship allows you to offer credits for your education. In addition to AMA PRA Category 1 Credits for physicians, you might consider extending your reach by collaborating with a provider accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education to offer pharmacy CEUs, or with an American Nurses Credentialing Center — accredited provider to offer nursing contact hours. Other types of credit are offered by the American Academy of Family Physicians or the American Osteopathic Association, to name just a few. By sharing the work and charging fees for those services, you can capitalize on each other's strengths while increasing the financial viability of your program.

Co-sponsorships can also benefit your bottom line. Instead of competing for the same dwindling pool of funds, accredited providers can request grants together to increase the likelihood of receiving funds. Identifying complementary capabilities is another valuable byproduct of co-sponsorships. For example, an accredited medical education and communication company might co-sponsor a yearlong, national educational initiative with an academic medical center that is well-versed in conducting outcomes measurement.

Do Your Research

Building a mutually satisfying partnership starts with some basic research.

  • For nonaccredited providers, if you're approached by an organization claiming to be an accredited provider, contact its accreditation body and confirm its validity. Additionally, research the organization to determine if its CE mission parallels your own.

  • Ask if the accredited provider previously worked in a collaborative relationship with another CE provider.

  • Inquire about fee schedules and the cost of services. Often fees are negotiable.

  • Determine all the regulatory guidances pertaining to educational activities, e.g., guidelines set forth by the accreditation bodies as well as the internal policies of the provider. Request clarification of policies you don't understand.

  • Establish roles and responsibilities for all partners, put them in writing, and get the agreement signed. A signed written agreement ensures that all the parties have accepted their responsibilities.

  • Once you start working together, maintain open lines of communication. Many partnerships run into problems when one or more of the partners makes assumptions about the other's roles and responsibilities. Having regular teleconferences and distributing meeting minutes or e-mails keeps partners in the loop throughout the project.

Fostering collaborative relationships among all provider types enables you to share resources, minimize risk for commercial bias, and maximize the value of your CE activities.

Nathalie Harden, manager, CME and compliance, Applied Clinical Education, New York, has 10 years' experience in both accredited and nonaccredited CE programs. Contact her at Ann C. Lichti, assistant CME director, Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc., Hasbrouck, Heights, N.J., has three and a half years' CE experience. Contact her at This column was based on a workshop given by Harden and Lichti at the Alliance for CME 2006 annual conference. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not constitute the views of Applied Clinical Education or Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc.

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