In response to the United States Senate Finance Committee report on CME, many CME professionals are calling on the Accreditation Council for CME to strengthen its system for monitoring providers. In its report, accompanying press release, and a follow-up letter to the ACCME, the SFC expressed concerns that the ACCME's oversight process is not sufficient to guarantee that educational programs are independent of pharmaceutical industry influence. And, some providers agree.

"Now, maybe enforcement will finally become a priority for the ACCME," says Eric Peterson, EdM, vice president, continuing education, Academy for Healthcare Education Inc., New York. "I certainly hope that's the case."

Peterson and others suggest that the ACCME should do a better job enforcing the rules it already has and take stronger action against providers that violate the guidelines. But some fear that the ACCME, instead of strengthening its existing rules, will react by releasing yet more new regulations. CME providers are already struggling to implement the updated accreditation criteria released in 2006, and they are still coping with challenges posed by the updated Standards for Commercial Support, issued in 2004.

"My first reaction was, we’re going to see more rules and more regulations from ACCME [on top of the new criteria]" says Edeline Mitton, MEd, CPP, director, Office of CME, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. “And the CME offices, we can’t handle it. We don’t have the staff. We don’t have the budget [to take on more in addition to what came out last year].”

While many share Mitton’s concern that any new ACCME guidelines will overburden providers, some also point out that one positive outcome of the SFC report and subsequent ACCME action could be a shakeout of CME providers that don't follow the spirit and letter of the guidelines intended to ensure the independence and quality of education.

“Our whole profession will benefit if the marginal players or the uninterested players or the players that are perhaps doing the things that are inappropriate drop out and pursue other endeavors,” says Philip Dombrowski, president/CEO at the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Click here for more about the CME community's response to the SFC report, and watch for the July/August issue of Medical Meetings.