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ACCME transparency looking a little opaque to me

Update: Dr. Kopelow is going to talk with me this afternoon. I know he likely won't be able to give me many details, but I look forward to hearing whatever he can say, and will share it with you as soon as I can.

OK, I admit I was a little miffed to learn we had been scooped on our own turf by The New York Times when that venerable paper reported that the Accreditation Council for CME was going to be publicly outing accredited providers who were found to be in violation of its accreditation criteria. But really, shame on me for not jumping on the story first, I thought.

But now I am doubly miffed. After waiting for weeks for an interview, then at least some e-mailed comments, yesterday ACCME Chief Executive Murray Kopelow, MD, declined to discuss with me at all what he had already told the Times, much less answer any follow-up questions I sent. They did issue a statement last week that, to me anyway, didn't say a whole lot (here's the best I could do to provide an update, based on the information in the statement).

I understand that his hands are tied due to the nature of the organization, which answers to many masters, but it makes me think that the ACCME’s new approach to transparency is going to be one of those one-step-forward, two-steps-back type of things.

On one hand, ACCME wants to open up its processes and let people comment, as it did last spring when it issued a request-for-comment on four proposals it was considering. On the other hand, in this case anyway, it sounds as if ACCME doesn’t want to publicly specify—except in very general terms—what the board is even deliberating until the deliberation is done. Except to The New York Times, of course. But now ACCME’s lack of willingness to talk about what it already said makes me think it is backing off from those statements as well.

Any time the ACCME sneezes, the entire CME community gets pneumonia, and questions were flying around the Alliance for CME listservs after the Times article came out. If an accredited provider is found to be noncompliant, would it be required to notify learners and provide corrective materials? Who would have to pay for it? How would it work? A lot of people seemed to jump the gun and, as this community is wont to do, start sweating the details before any decision is finalized. It would be nice to know if in fact this is something people need to start thinking about or not. It also could be a good argument against increased transparency, if all that transparency is going to do is cause unnecessary stress if the board decides not to go this route.

But it would be nice to at least be given the sense that the community’s input is important to the board’s decision-making process. While I’m still miffed, I’m putting my faith in the ACCME and hoping that one of the next steps it will make as soon as the board issues its decisions on whatever specific policies it is deliberating will be another call for comments—before it hands down any final decisions.

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