American Dental Association to Revise Standards for Continuing Education Recognition Program

Earlier this year, the American Dental Association (ADA) announced Revisions to the ADA Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP) Standards Related to Scientific Basis of CE Content.  It is interesting to note that several of the recommendations made by the ADA, particularly pertaining to commercial support of continuing dental education (CDE), were adapted from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) Standards for Commercial Support. 


In their press release, the ADA noted that, ADA CERP Eligibility Criteria require that continuing education providers offer courses with “a sound scientific basis in order to adequately protect the public” (ADA CERP Eligibility Criterion 2). At its November 2010 meeting, the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure approved revisions to the ADA CERP Recognition Standards and Procedures designed to strengthen this essential aspect of continuing dental education. 

In finalizing these revisions, the Council considered comments from the communities of interest, including the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs, and reviewed policies related to content validation established by other accrediting agencies for continuing health care education. Specific revisions to the Standards related to validation of clinical or technical content are identified in the attached chart. 

Written policies on clinical and technical CE courses—Standard IX.8  

Standard IX.8 previously stated that providers were responsible for ensuring that clinical and technical CE activities had a sound scientific basis and proven clinical efficacy. 

The revised criterion now requires that providers develop and implement specific written policies or guidelines describing the provider’s commitment to ensuring that clinical and technical CE courses are grounded in a sound scientific basis, and outlining the provider’s methods for doing so. 

Written policies, procedures or guidelines must ensure that the scientific basis for clinical and technical CE content is presented in each course, as well as an assessment of the benefits and risks associated with any clinical recommendations or treatment options presented.

ADA CERP recognizes that continuing education may offer a forum for presenting new research and stimulating scientific exchange, and that there are instances where scientific evidence for new or accepted dental procedures is emerging or uncertain. In these circumstances, providers must ensure that the level of scientific evidence that is available is presented, in addition to the known benefits and risks associated with the course subject matter. 

To demonstrate compliance with Standard IX.8, providers will be asked to submit evidence that they have written policies and/or procedures outlining requirements for clinical and technical CE courses. Providers may also be asked to submit examples of course materials documenting that scientific evidence and known risks and benefits were presented. 

Examples of documents that providers might submit to demonstrate compliance with Standard IX.8 could include organizational policies, procedure manuals, standard operating protocols for staff and volunteers, instructions or guidelines for speakers/authors, etc. In this context, ADA noted that providers should also review ADA CERP Standard VII.3, which states that providers must ensure that instructors “support clinical recommendations with references from the scientific literature whenever possible.” 

Courses offered on a repeated basis—Standard IX.9  

This new criterion applies to CE providers that offer courses on a repeated basis. To ensure that these courses continue to meet ADA CERP requirements, providers must now have a mechanism in place to periodically review them. In particular, for courses presenting clinical or technical content, the provider must periodically conduct a review of the course content to ensure that it presents current scientific information and updated assessments of the benefits and risks associated with the subject matter. 

To demonstrate compliance with Standard IX.9, providers that offer the same course or courses on a repeated basis will be asked to describe their practices for periodically reviewing the content of these courses. Providers may also be asked to submit policies and procedures for periodic review, documentation from a periodic review, or other evidence that a review was conducted. 

Time line for implementation  

ADA CERP approved providers should review the revised Standards and assess internal policies and procedures to identify whether any changes may be needed.

To allow providers time to make any necessary adjustments to programs, policies or procedures, ADA CERP will begin evaluating compliance beginning in January 2012. The first cohort of providers to be evaluated on compliance with the revised Standards related to scientific content will be those with recognition terms expiring December 2012.

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