As a CME professional, you may know the ropes in regard to following CME accreditation and regulatory guidelines and implementing standards in your office. However, in the rapidly changing CME industry, you may find yourself in at least one of the following situations:
- A colleague from your office allows a commercial support representative to introduce a physician at your last live activity, and now you have to do damage control.
- An exhibitor and commercial supporter at your annual meeting attends a CME designated activity, then participates in Q & A, directing the conversation toward products manufactured by her company—no one present on site representing your CME office attempts to intercede.
- Your regularly scheduled course (RSC) coordinator grows frustrated with his contacts in the departments that host RSCs because they are not submitting the appropriate paperwork.
- Your employees try to edit the accreditation or credit designation statement.
- You continually get all incoming calls questioning your CME practices, because no one in the office knows how to answer them.
If you are familiar with a similar experience, then your office may benefit from an internal CME continuing professional development (CPD) strategy. Continuing professional development includes any of a variety of activities that aid your staff in learning more about CME, other regulatory requirements and the CME profession. It also involves CME employees in continuous quality improvement (CQI) activities. The activities could include tools, such as training presentations, games, surveys, and roundtable discussion, among others. You may have already recognized the wealth of feedback that employees provide about your CME program and office. Employees readily comment on your organization, though more often than not complaints comprise the majority of remarks. A CPD system channels this natural occurrence and allows you to capture candid comments and immediate reactions to situations. You may even find ways of inspiring positive or constructive feedback—even proposals for solutions—with the creative methods of training and assessment that will be discussed later.
The fringe benefits of implementing a CPD system into your office include more than fulfilling ACCME requirements. Employees will aid in increasing compliance, supporting your interpretation of the guidelines, taking more responsibility off your plate, and actively engaging in providing constructive feedback about your CME program. Often CPD activities promote team building and problem solving which may overlap into improvements in other areas of operations. Compliance may also "trickle down" to faculty and commercial supporter representatives as your employees convey their knowledge. Employees will grow professionally as they translate CME competencies into daily practice.
The step that ties everything together is assessment of your CPD program. Once you have implemented a few mechanisms, you can use simple evaluation techniques to determine whether your program is moving in the appropriate direction. If you implement changes to your CME program as a result of your CPD system, assess whether those changes have produced positive results. Last, document every single step of the way and you will have a good start for incorporating this part of CQI into the Element 2.5—Program Evaluation section of your accreditation self-study.
In a busy CME office, you may be reluctant to add another task to your already full plate, but a CPD program may be modified to fit into the most hectic schedule or provider environment. Once you determine the goals for your employees, all it takes is assessing the resources at your fingertips: human, financial, creative, equipment, and time. If you report to higher management, support from above is key to the success of a CPD program. You may want to implement a few activities and capture data about the achievement of goals or improvements in the office as an argument for establishing or maintaining a CME CPD program.