Seize the Opportunity to Review the Standards for Commercial Support

By Natalie Auberry, JD

An ACCME task force was convened last month to begin review and revision of the Standards for Commercial Support (SCS). Almost immediately, the task force announced its Call for Feedback, providing a valuable chance for accredited and joint accredited providers of CE to participate.

Overall compliance results for the past 10 years show that issues of commercial support create an area where accredited providers encounter the most difficulty meeting the Standards. Recent compliance issues include disclosure forms containing incomplete or inaccurate definitions of commercial interest, failures to resolve conflicts of interest (COI) appropriately for planners of educational activities and the inclusion of content controlled by commercial interests within accredited activities.

Because the Council does not routinely revisit the Accreditation Criteria and the Standards to which accredited providers must adhere, this call for feedback is a crucial — and potentially one-time — opportunity for those affected by these policies to contribute and be proactively involved in shaping best practices.

Gail Radecki, CME program manager for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI), stressed the importance for accredited providers to engage in the feedback and discussion process.

“Anytime the community is given the opportunity to weigh in on how we do business, we should view it as our responsibility to respond,” Radecki said. By participating in feedback and discussions, “we stay abreast of proposed changes and [can] assimilate the potential impact of those changes on our work.”

Welcoming the task force’s invitation to contribute, Allison Gardner, vice president for Educational Strategy and Content at Med-IQ noted, “The results from the Call for Feedback survey and the subsequent findings of the council will provide an important lens on our collective priorities as the medical education industry continues to evolve.”

The shared priority of assuring quality through consensus around best practices is a task force theme that resonates throughout the community of accredited providers.

“Providers are responsible for protecting the independence and integrity of CE,” said Kurt Snyder, director of CME at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Citing the ACCME’s strategic goal of accreditation standards that are both relevant and effective, Snyder described the challenge of uncertainty around definitions of “industry.”

“Providers like Stanford and other major research institutions are eager to partner with nearby tech companies that are leading the way in investigations and discovery," Snyder said. "But it can be difficult to determine whether the standards regard such partnerships as sources of commercial support.”

Representatives from joint accredited providers and the recognized state accreditors are included in the Call for Feedback. The initial period for stakeholder response is open through March 8, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. CST. To facilitate the submission of comments and responses to specific survey questions, the ACCME is providing an information package for review and download here.

From May through October 2019, the feedback and discussions will be analyzed, and updated SCS and Policies will be drafted. The ACCME Board of Directors will review and create a final version in December 2019, with another official call for comment to be provided in January next year. The final updated version is slated for release in April 2020.

Natalie Auberry, JD, is an employee of the Stanford University Center for CME, where she works on issues of accreditation, best practices and funding for CE.

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