CME Development in the Days of Sunshine and Transparency

Continuing medical education (CME) is very important in keeping up with clinical developments and advancing knowledge and practice skills among healthcare professionals. Developing trust among healthcare consumers is of comparative importance and the Sunshine Act is where these two key concepts converge.

Understanding the Law
The Physician Payment Sunshine Act (PPSA) – Section 6002 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – requires public disclosure of the financial relationships between physicians and applicable manufacturers, including pharmaceutical, medical device, and biologics companies. This means that all CME expenditures (i.e. payments for advisory boards, dinners provided at trainings, payments for conducting clinical research, laboratory testing, etc.) must be made public knowledge.

The law also requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish reporting procedures for manufacturers to submit information, as well as procedures for making that information available to the public. Although the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued a proposed rule, the law has yet to be implemented. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a roundtable discussion on September 12, 2012 to review several major areas of concern and move the process along to a final rule.

Sunshine Act Implications on CME
Some are concerned the Sunshine Act will cause the public to misunderstand the complex interaction between scientific research and communication in both the creation and adoption of medical innovations. Fearing that the public will view payments as a conflict of interest, many industry stakeholders are reducing their funding of CME programs – a decline that could increase the number of patients at risk. In fact, it was reported by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) that industry support for CME dropped by 11.4 percent in 2011 than in 2010.

Five Essential Elements of an Effective Educational Program
So, how does a professional who wants to develop a CME course achieve a WIN WIN? Read on to discover the steps involved in developing a successful program.

  1. Cement a Rationale for the Course: Ask yourself why do you want to run the course, what is the need for the course, and what do you expect to accomplish through the course? Let the answers to these questions provide the foundation and help guide you in development.
  2. Establish Course Objectives: Consider what is the knowledge you want participants to gain, what skills you want them to acquire, how attitudes or perceptions might change, and how practice outcomes may be affected. Then, set specific objectives, which will help guide your selection of topics and potential speakers.
  3. Determine a Learning Format: When the objective results in change in practice, it is important to provide multiple learning formats. While didactic and passive learning formats provide the attendee with a level of comprehension, active participation will encourage real-world application. If a virtual medical simulation is your medium of choice, then include passive and active zones where users can interactively learn and explore.
  4. Evaluate Acquired Comprehension: Testing the newfound skills of attendees is not only important in evaluating the success of the CME program, but in gauging whether attendees are adequately prepared for the implementation of new ideas and methodologies within their practice. Using the virtual medical simulation format as an example, testing can be as simple as a series of multiple choice questions or as complex as competitive gaming scenarios that assess interactions and speed. Refer back to your course objectives and what skills you want attendees to acquire to determine an appropriate scoring system.
  5. Report your Findings: The validity and accreditation of your CME course can be best proven by variable metrics reporting. A database back-end system for a virtual medical simulation can track user registration information and the completion of testing modules. Such a back-end could be enhanced to track payments, fees, and other associated costs of CME development and implementation, which would help support Sunshine compliance.

As the landscape of continuing medical education and regulatory guidelines shift over time, you need a CME developer that is experienced in producing programs that have measurable and definable impact. DDA Medical is the partner you can rely on. Whether you want to design a CME course that includes a series of webinars or a virtual medical simulation that allows healthcare professional to practice their skills in a risk-free setting, DDA Medical has produced a wide range of tools that deliver results that improve patient care. To learn more, contact DDA Medical at 215-355-6442 or