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How Standards for Commercial Support Impact Your CME

As a healthcare provider, you’re subject to a lot of information about how you should treat your patients, especially as new techniques, tools and technologies are introduced. Some of these influential sources have promotional or commercial intent, like a device manufacturer or pharmaceutical company. While these sources are not inherently bad—often, they’re backed by years of regulated research and development by innovative industry leaders—they must be balanced with bias-free information from sources with no commercial intent for healthcare integrity and patient safety.

This is why the ACCME has standards for commercial support that keep accredited CME separate from promotional content.

Integrity and Independence in CME

In 2022, the ACCME replaced its Standards for Commercial Support with the Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education. ACCME President and CEO, Graham McMahon, MD, MMSc explained the changes in JAMA, saying, “…educators must protect the learning environment from industry influence to ensure the profession remains true to its ethical commitments.” He goes on to remind the industry CME should be “based on science and best practice,” which makes it inherently different from other sources of information.

The new rules align CME with patient and public needs, ensure educational content is valid and limit commercial influence. The Standards for Integrity and Independence include five parts, with most directly relating to commercial support. These standards are part of the organization’s Accreditation Rules, which all accredited CME providers must adhere to.

Standard 2: Prevent Commercial Bias and Marketing in Accredited Continuing Education

Standard 2 explains the limitations around ineligible companies’ role in the planning and presentation of CME. The sales or marketing of any products or services must be separated from educational material by both physical distance and time. This standard also protects attendees’ personal information, which can’t be shared with any commercial organization without the healthcare provider’s consent.

Standard 3: Identify, Mitigate, and Disclose Relevant Financial Relationships

Before addressing any potential conflicts of interest, they must be identified. This process ensures CME providers are excluding owners and employees of ineligible companies (with some exceptions) from participating in planning or presenting educational material. Any other relevant financial relationships are identified and disclosed to participants.

Standard 4: Manage Commercial Support Appropriately

Commercial support is allowed as long as it complies with the ACCME’s requirements. Accredited CME providers may use financial or in kind support (like materials or event space) to enhance the continuing education experience. However, content must remain unbiased and this support must be disclosed.

Any commercially supported activities presented as part of a CME event must adhere to Standard 5: Manage Ancillary Activities Offered in Conjunction with Accredited Continuing Education.

What do practitioners need to know?

The ACCME’s dedication to unbiased CME means providers searching for informative, science-based continuing education don’t have to look far. Any relevant disclosures will be included in CME activity details to help you make informed decisions about what CME is right for you and your practice.