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Preventing Commercial Bias in Accredited CE

The ACCME’s Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education have changed for CME providers, directors, and coordinators who manage continuing education programs. Among the new changes are those that protect learners from biases stemming from ineligible companies. Here, we talk about the changes that the ACCME has made for preventing commercial bias activity and why these are critical.

Influence Is a No-Go

Your learners deserve the ability to provide safe and effective care for their patients that’s based on best practices and evidence-based practices, not on ineligible company marketing or other forms of promotions.

The ACCME Standards are intended to create a clear and solid separation between your accredited continuing education and marketing and sales activities. So, as an accredited provider, you must ensure that all the decisions for planning, faculty selection, delivery, and accredited education evaluations for your activities are made without influence or involvement from owners or employees of ineligible companies. Simply put, any influence is a no-go. But what are ineligible companies and what do they do?

Ineligible companies are those organizations that cannot become ACCME accredited because their primary business is to produce, market, sell, resell, and/or distribute healthcare products. These include:

  • Advertising, marketing, or communications firms whose clients are ineligible companies
  • Biomedical startups that have begun a governmental regulatory approval process
  • Compounding pharmacies that manufacture proprietary compounds
  • Device manufacturers or distributors
  • Diagnostic labs that sell proprietary products
  • Growers, distributors, sellers, or manufacturers of medical foods and dietary supplements
  • Manufacturers of health-related wearable products
  • Pharmaceutical companies or distributors
  • Pharmacy benefit managers
  • Reagent manufacturers or sellers

Owners and employees of these ineligible companies are considered to have financial relationships or conflicts of interest that may influence or control the planning of accredited continuing education. These individuals can have their own company’s best financial interests at the forefront.

Active Promotion Is Disallowed

The Standards are intended for preventing commercial bias—that is, protecting your learners from promotion, marketing, and business biases. Your accredited continuing educational activities must be free of marketing or sales of products or services.

The ACCME is clear on its view of preventing commercial bias. Products or services cannot serve ineligible companies’ financial or professional interests during accredited education activities. As an accredited provider, you have to ensure that all your decisions around planning, faculty selection, and course delivery and evaluation are made without influence from owners and employees from an ineligible company.

With regard to your faculty, they can’t promote or sell their products or services because in doing so, this can serve their own interests rather than that of your learners.

Contact Information Sharing Is Prohibited

As an accredited provider, you must be certain that you don’t share your learners’ names or contact information with ineligible companies or their agents without the explicit consent of the individual learners. This protects your learners from unwanted marketing, enabling them to focus on their accredited continuing education activities and their clinical practices.

Undesirable Outcomes of Commercial Bias

If corporate sponsorship is disclosed, a message presented in the context of education can imply an impression of credibility and independence.

A risk exists that healthcare professionals will allow favorable drug or medical device messages viewed during an educational activity to change their medical practices, especially when they haven’t evaluated information from several other sources. As a result, commercial interests can create bias in continuing education that may include a learner’s inclination toward or actual use of a product or service.

Keeping Things Separate

When you’re an accredited provider, you’re responsible for ensuring that your continuing education is kept separate from any marketing by ineligible companies. This includes advertising, sales, exhibits, and promotions, as well as such things from non-accredited education offered alongside that of accredited continuing education.

When it comes down to live education activities that have been developed by or with influence from ineligible companies—and this includes planners and faculty with unmitigated financial relationships—they can’t occur in the educational space within thirty minutes before or after your accredited activity.

Activities that are part of your event but aren’t accredited continuing education must be clearly labeled and communicated. These include:

  • Print, digital, or online continuing education activities
  • Presentations of marketing materials while engaged in the accredited education activities
  • Engagement with accredited education activities without having to click through, listen to, watch, or be presented with product or service promotions or product-specific advertisements

Preventing Commercial Bias

In preventing commercial bias in your accredited continuing education, you will create a clear and significant separation between your activities and the marketing and sales from ineligible companies. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to prevent ineligible companies from increasing or maintaining any relationship with your learners.

It’s All about Your Learners

You want your learners to have the best possible continuing education experience. In order to accomplish this, ACCME’s Standards are preventing commercial bias, enabling your learners to provide safe and effective care that’s based on evidence-based practices, not ineligible company promotions. To learn more about the ACCME commercial updates, check out our webinar on how to navigate the new Standards.

At EthosCE, we understand the challenges of staying up to date and compliant with ACCME changes. We know how critical it is to get things done right the first time when it comes to team-based education and success.

To learn how EthosCE can enhance the continuing education of your healthcare teams, schedule a free 1-on-1 demo with one of our specialists today!

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