ACCME: Continuing Medical Education at Work

 Recently, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) announced the publication of The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education at Work: Accreditation, Recognition, Education, Operations, and Governance

The purpose of this report is to provide an in-depth, easily understandable explanation of the ACCME accreditation system and services. The report includes narrative and data designed to answer questions that the ACCME is frequently asked about, such as: 

The goal of the new publication is to increase understanding about the ACCME accreditation system among a wide range of stakeholders, including accredited providers, physician learners, other accreditors, health care leadership organizations, the public, the media, and the government.

In announcing the report, ACCME encouraged people to share this report with CME and healthcare stakeholders, to deepen their awareness of how CME Matters to Patient Care. 

Additionally, ACCME Chief Executive Murray Kopelow, MD, gave a short presentation about the new report.  Dr. Kopelow explained that the ACCME produced this report as part of their ongoing efforts to facilitate dialogue, increase transparency, and promote understanding about the ACCME and accredited CME.

Dr. Kopelow noted that the ACCME thought it was important to publish this report now, because the ACCME accreditation system has experienced significant change and growth during the past few years. Specifically, the CME community has undergone this transformation because the government, the public, and the profession of medicine called on accredited CME to increase its accountability.

He noted how the ACCME in 2006 released the Accreditation Criteria to answer that call and how data from the new report demonstrate that accredited providers are successfully managing the transition to the 2006 Accreditation Criteria.

Accordingly, Dr. Kopelow asserted that, “accredited CME is now strongly positioned to support U.S. health care quality-improvement efforts and to align with emerging continuing professional development systems such as the Maintenance of Certification and the Maintenance of Licensure initiatives.

Throughout this ongoing transformation, he noted that ACCME has aimed to support accredited providers in meeting the ACCME’s higher standards and to demonstrate accredited CME’s value to stakeholders.

Consequently, the report shows how the ACCME has expanded their collaboration, communications, outreach, and education efforts.  These efforts illustrate ACCME’s commitment to following the continuous improvement model embodied in the Accreditation Criteria, and the ACCME expects physician learners and accredited providers to engage in ongoing learning, change, and improvement—and we hold ourselves to the same expectations.

In concluding his comments, Dr. Kopelow recognized ACCME’s 30 years of dedication to maintaining a voluntary, self-regulated accreditation system and to supporting accredited CME providers and other stakeholders in their efforts to close health care quality gaps and address emerging public health concerns.  As a result, he hoped that the “The Accreditation Council for CME at Work” will increase understanding about the ACCME accreditation system among a wide range of stakeholders, including accredited providers, physician learners, other accreditors, health care leadership organizations, the public, the media, and the government.

ACCME Report at Work

The report recognizes how the ACCME has incorporated into its accreditation criteria the updated 2004 Standards for Commercial Support: Standards to Ensure Independence in CME Activities, are designed to reposition accredited CME as a strategic partner in health care quality initiatives, providing physicians with relevant, practice-based education that is independent, based on valid content, and free of commercial influence.

ACCME has completed accreditation and reaccreditation reviews based on the 2006 Accreditation Criteria for more than half of ACCME-accredited providers and the data demonstrate that accredited providers are successfully managing the transition to the Accreditation Criteria. Consequently, the report also explains how the ACCME has employed a number of changes to expand their collaboration, communications, outreach, and education efforts.

Strengthening collaboration

From roundtables bringing together the ACCME Board of Directors, member organizations, and a spectrum of CME leaders, to a series of town hall–style meetings for specific accredited provider groups, the ACCME has convened events to foster high-level interchange with stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities facing accredited CME. These events have laid the foundation for an ongoing dialogue about how to advance CME’s contributions to health care quality initiatives.

Expanding education to meet measured needs

To assist accredited providers in attaining and maintaining accreditation, ACCME has:

  • Produced an Education and Training section on their Web site, which offers a range of multimedia resources, including interviews with CME leaders about innovative approaches.
  • Updated their compendium of accreditation case examples to offer a more user-friendly resource.
  • Initiated phone calls with accredited providers experiencing accreditation challenges to offer them additional assistance in their improvement efforts.
  • Continued to provide face-to-face educational opportunities through accreditation workshops, newcomers conferences, and town hall meetings at the ACCME offices.
  • Increased their educational and professional development support for the state medical society system. There are now six ACCME staff who travel to conduct educational sessions in support of the ACCME accreditation system.

Supporting the intrastate accreditation system

In response to a 2006 call from Recognized Accreditors (state medical societies), the ACCME revised its recognition system and created the Markers of Equivalency, an updated set of requirements designed to ensure the consistency of accreditation decision-making across the national and state system. Also in collaboration with ACCME Recognized Accreditors, the ACCME has taken a number of additional steps to strengthen the integration of the state and national systems.

Several representatives from the intrastate system now serve on the national-level Accreditation Review Committee and the ACCME Board of Directors. ACCME has also continued to enhance the support and resources they provide for the intrastate accreditation system, including regional face-to-face forums, monthly webinars, an annual conference, and professional development training for new CME staff members at state medical societies.

Supporting interprofessional education

National organizations, such as the Institute of Medicine, have identified team-based care as a critical component of health care improvement. To reward organizations for offering team-focused education that improves patient care, ACCME partnered with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and the American Nurses Credentialing Center to develop a joint accreditation initiative. In 2010, ACCME announced that two continuing health care education providers became the first organizations to achieve joint accreditation.

Supporting international continuing medical education

ACCME has also continued to support global CME initiatives. In 2010, ACCME executive staff welcomed visitors from the Jordanian Medical Council, who are seeking assistance for the development of accreditation standards; made two presentations at the First China International Continuing Medical Education Conference in Beijing; and received an invitation to assist in the development of a CME system in Ethiopia. The ACCME recognized the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada as substantially equivalent to the ACCME’s accreditation system; the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada received this recognition in 2008.

Increasing transparency and accountability

To further transparency, ACCME published more information about accredited providers, accreditation decisions, and compliance findings. To strengthen accountability, ACCME accelerated the improvement process for providers found in noncompliance. ACCME also expanded the definition of a commercial interest to further safeguard the separation of promotion from education.

Because of these improvements, ACME was honored to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging in July 2009, stating that the ACCME is an effective firewall between industry marketing and accredited CME. The ACCME continues to advance transparency and accountability and in 2010, ACCME revised their complaints process to include providers’ responsibilities to inform learners if an activity is found in noncompliance.

Increasing Interactions with government

Through ACCME interactions with government, they seek to inform public officials about the value of accredited CME, and to provide support for national health care quality and safety initiatives. ACCME has continued their long-standing collaboration with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and made a presentation to a Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Advisory Committee about how accredited CME could be a strategic asset to Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) initiatives.

Additionally, ACCME was invited to several meetings with the senior staff of the Office of Health Information Technology, Department of Health and Human Services, to discuss proposals for better integrating health IT and professional medical education, including CME.


The new ACCME report recognizes how the CME enterprise is undergoing a time of profound reflection and improvement, raising CME to a higher level of effectiveness and relevancy. The report also acknowledges how accredited providers are facilitating self-directed, practice-based education that supports physicians’ commitment to lifelong learning.

In addition, technological advances are enabling providers to offer education through simulations and just-in-time learning, and to utilize electronic records to evaluate physicians’ changes in practice and patient care. Accredited providers have successfully demonstrated that CME is a Bridge to Quality.  Last, but not least, accredited CME providers are implementing educational strategies to help physicians overcome barriers to change and they are partnering with quality initiatives within their institutions, health systems, and communities to improve patient outcomes.


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