Quality continuing medical education, whether it be delivered online or in person, should be an effective teaching tool, designed by medical experts to contain up-to-date information practitioners can implement immediately. While these criteria signal a CME activity is of value to the learner, it is not a complete picture of what makes an activity eligible for CME credit. From CME authored by professional organizations like the AMA, to the individual practitioner creating a course on a topic they are passionate about, quality CME must also be accredited.
Generally speaking, accreditation is a process of verifying or validating the credentials of a person or materials by a committee known as the Accreditation Council for Continuing Education. This entity serves as a body of experts that establish and enforce criteria those creating CME content must adhere to in order to have their content accredited. Here is an overview of the accreditation process, ACCME guidelines and how they impact medical practitioners earning CME credit through CME providers.
The ACCME and Accredited Providers
The ACCME committee’s core function is to evaluate CME providers for how well it helps medical practitioner carry out their duties more effectively by completing CME activities. ACCME guidelines award accreditation to CME providers whose materials are relevant, effective, up-to-date and unbiased medically and commercially.
The ACCME does not accredit individual activities. It accredits CME providers who are responsible for developing CME and accrediting CME activities. Prominent CME providers are the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association. To date, there are over 1,500 providers nationally. Many are hospitals, healthcare systems and health facilities. Their role is to work with educators within these entities to design and implement CME activities. Annual CME requirements are established by hospital credentialing bodies, state medical boards, medical specialty certifying boards and medical specialty societies. These entities work within ACCME standards to dictate the earning of credit by medical professionals and how providers award them.
If successfully accredited, CME providers are subject to a rigorous initial accreditation process and if successful, receive accreditation for two years. Providers that maintain their credentialing beyond the initial two years, can have their accreditation validated every four years in a streamlined evaluative process.
Types of CME Activities
If a provider determines an activity is worthy of accreditation in accordance with ACCME general criteria, it can award a number of credit hours for a particular activity. They do so under a standardized award process delineated by the area of practice the practitioners corresponding professional body. To use physicians as an example, accredited CME activities are eligible for an AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Category 1 is the primary type of AMA PRA credit.
The AMA provides information, resources and guidance about the AMA CME credit system for CME providers. Activities certified for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ must meet both the AMA’s and the accreditor’s requirements.
Types of Accredited Activities Include:
Live Conference: This activity occurs at a specific time as scheduled by the accredited CME provider. Participation can be remote or in person. This includes live online webinars.
Enduring Material: These include online interactive educational modules and recorded presentations, as well as ongoing and regularly scheduled educational series.
Earning and Awarding Credit
When a CME activity is complete, a practitioner like a physician applies to be awarded credit through their corresponding professional body–in this case, the AMA. Below is an outline of how credit is designed by providers and how activity participants detail their participation to earn their credits.
Credit designation for each live activity–such as a travel conference–is determined by measuring formal interaction time between faculty and the physician audience; 60 minutes of physician participation in a certified live activity equals one (1) AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Credit is designated in 15-minute or 0.25 credit increments. CME providers are required to round to the nearest quarter-hour when awarding credit. The time for simultaneous certified sessions within a live activity can only be counted once toward the designated maximum.
These certified segments must be clearly identified in the activity materials and included in the designated maximum amount of credit. Participants are provided a certificate and additional documentation indicating their participation. CME Seminars’ CertStore can help you manage and track this documentation.
Enduring Materials Such As Online Courses
Credit designation for each enduring material must be determined by an accredited CME provider and is established by a good faith estimate of how long a physician will take to complete the activity to achieve its learning objectives. Credit is designated in 15-minute or 0.25 credit increments. Accredited CME providers must round to the nearest quarter-hour. If the activity includes an assessment or evaluation, credit should be awarded only to physicians who meet at least the minimum performance level.