ACCME Guidelines: Key Considerations for Compliance

Posted by Sophia Duplin
ACCME Guidelines: Key Considerations for Compliance

What Are Core ACCME Accreditation Criteria?

The Core Accreditation Criteria established by Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) are essential standards that initial applicants and accredited providers must meet to ensure high-quality medical education. 


Compliance with these criteria, which is mandatory for achieving Provisional Accreditation or Accreditation with Commendation terms, guarantees that educational programs effectively improve healthcare professionals' competence and patient care outcomes. 


This foundation ensures the continuous improvement and accountability of medical education providers, enhancing the overall quality of healthcare education and its impact on patient care and professional development.




Important ACCME Accreditation Criteria That You Need To Meet

As mentioned above, all courses must meet a set of ACCME requirements. Let’s take a look at the different aspects of the Core Criteria and how you can see if you meet compliance. 


1. The Mission Statement

The ACCME sets standards for CME programs, requiring a mission statement that outlines expected changes in healthcare professionals' competence, performance, or patient outcomes.


It can be difficult to know what you should or should not include to make a good mission statement based on ACCME standards. Here are some qualifies to consider as you build your mission statement: 



Good Mission Statement

Bad Mission Statement


Clearly defines expected changes in competence, performance, or patient outcomes.

Vague or lacks specific goals.

Alignment with ACCME

Directly aligns with ACCME criteria, including changes in competence, performance, or patient outcomes.

Does not mention or align with ACCME criteria.

Measurable Outcomes

Includes measurable outcomes that can be evaluated for effectiveness.

Lacks measurable outcomes.

Relevance to Audience

Tailored to the needs of the target audience, considering their professional gaps and educational needs.

Generic, not tailored to a specific audience.


Based on current evidence and best practices in the field.

Does not reference evidence-based practices.

Commitment to Improvement

Demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement in healthcare through education.

Lacks a clear commitment to improving healthcare.

Inclusive of Program Scope

Encompasses the full scope of the program, including types of activities and methods of delivery.

Narrow focus, not reflecting the program's full scope.


2. The Program Analysis

The ACCME accreditation criteria for Program Analysis requires providers to collect data and conduct a comprehensive analysis to evaluate how effectively the CME mission has been fulfilled via educational activities. 


This involves assessing whether the expected learner or patient outcome changes align with the CME mission statement. Here are some qualities to look for to determine if your Program Analysis meets ACCME requirements: 



Good Program Analysis

Bad Program Analysis

Data Utilization

Utilizes comprehensive data sources (surveys, outcome data) to evaluate impact.

Lacks detailed data; relies on anecdotal evidence or no data.

Alignment with CME Mission

Clearly demonstrates how activities align with and support the CME mission.

Fails to connect activities with the CME mission or does not address mission objectives.

Outcome Measurement

Measures specific outcomes related to learner behavior and patient health improvements.

Does not measure outcomes or provide vague, non-quantifiable statements of success.

Analysis Depth

Provides a deep, thoughtful analysis of data, identifying successes and areas for improvement.

Offers superficial analysis without critical examination of results or implications.

Evidence of Impact

Shows concrete examples of how CME activities led to the desired changes.

Lacks evidence of impact, failing to show how activities contributed to any change.

Identification of Improvements

Identifies specific areas for improvement and proposes actionable steps.

Does not identify areas for improvement or suggests generic, non-actionable steps.


3. Program Improvements

ACCME accreditation criteria for Program Improvements require providers to assess and refine their CME programs. Providers enhance educational quality and effectiveness by analyzing performance and implementing necessary changes, aligning closely with their mission and goals.


Here are some qualifies to look for to determine if your Program Improvements section will be compliant: 



Good Program Improvement Section

Bad Program Improvement Section

Identification of Needs

Clearly identifies specific areas for improvement based on data and feedback.

Vague or no identification of areas needing improvement.


Lays out detailed plans for changes, including timelines and responsible parties.

Lacks concrete plans or details on how improvements will be made.


Demonstrates implementation of changes with examples and outcomes.

No evidence of implemented changes or follow-through.


Includes mechanisms for evaluating the effectiveness of changes made.

Omits evaluation of changes, leaving effectiveness unknown.

Alignment with CME Mission

Changes are directly linked to enhancing the CME mission and goals.

Changes do not clearly support or relate to the CME mission.

Continuous Improvement

Shows a cycle of ongoing assessment and enhancement.

Treats improvement as a one-time task without plans for ongoing evaluation.


4. Educational Needs

ACCME accreditation criteria ensure CME activities are designed based on learners' actual educational needs, focusing on knowledge, competence, or performance gaps that impact professional practice and patient care.


Here are some factors to consider to help you determine if your program will be compliant with ACCME’s strict requirements. 



Good Educational Needs Section

Bad Educational Needs Section

Identification of Needs

Clearly identifies specific knowledge, competence, or performance gaps.

Vague or no identification of specific gaps.

Relevance to Practice

Directly links educational needs to professional practice gaps.

Fails to link educational needs to actual practice gaps.

Analysis of Problems

Thorough analysis of practice or patient care problems to identify underlying deficits.

Superficial or no analysis of underlying problems.

Educational Strategy

Plans CME activities that are directly aimed at addressing identified needs.

Plans CME activities without a clear connection to identified needs.

Evaluation of Impact

Includes methods for assessing the impact of education on practice or patient care.

Lacks methods for assessing educational impact.


5. Designed To Change

Designed to Change refers to the ACCME criterion requiring educational activities to aim for changes in competence, performance, or patient outcomes. This aligns with a provider's mission, focusing on tangible improvements in healthcare delivery through education.


If you want to meet and retain ACCME accreditation, you will need to meet specific requirements like: 



Good Designed to Change Section

Bad Designed to Change Section

Alignment with Mission

Clearly aligns with the provider's mission to improve healthcare outcomes.

Lacks connection to the provider's mission or goals.

Educational Interventions

Activities are evidence-based and tailored to address identified gaps in competence, performance, or patient outcomes.

Activities are generic and not tailored to specific needs or outcomes.

Impact on Practice

Targets specific changes in competence, performance, or patient outcomes with measurable goals.

Vague or no specific targets for change, making impact difficult to measure.


Employs innovative educational strategies that engage learners and promote change.

Uses outdated or ineffective educational methods that do not foster change.

Evaluation and Feedback

Includes mechanisms for evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention and feedback for continuous improvement.

Lacks a clear evaluation process, making it difficult to assess impact or adapt strategies.


6. Appropriate Formats

ACCME accreditation criteria for Appropriate Formats emphasize selecting educational formats that align with the educational setting, objectives, and desired outcomes. 


Providers must choose formats—didactic sessions, small groups, interactive discussions, or hands-on skill labs—based on the intended educational change, considering adult education principles and learner needs.



Good Appropriate Formats

Bad Appropriate Formats

Alignment with Objectives

Formats directly support learning objectives and desired outcomes.

Formats do not align with or support the objectives and outcomes.


Interactive and engaging, facilitating active participation.

Passive or non-interactive, limiting learner engagement.


Flexible to accommodate different learning styles and needs.

One-size-fits-all approach, ignoring diverse learner needs.


Chosen based on evidence and the likelihood of achieving the desired change.

Selected without consideration of effectiveness or impact.


Suitable for the educational setting and logistical considerations.

Inappropriate for the setting, creating barriers to learning.


Focused on the needs and preferences of the learners.

Disregards learner feedback or preferences, impacting motivation and retention.


7. Competencies

ACCME accreditation criteria for competencies focus on the integration of desirable physician attributes into educational activities. 


It emphasizes planning processes that actively recognize and address gaps in professional practice through targeted activities aimed at enhancing specific competencies such as professionalism and communication.


Here are some aspects of competencies that ACCME considers compliant and non-compliant with their mandates. 



Good Competencies

Bad Competencies


Directly address identified professional practice gaps.

Vaguely related or unrelated to specific practice gaps.


Seamlessly incorporated into educational activities.

Tacked on without integration into the educational objectives.

Impact Potential

Designed to significantly improve professional behavior/practice.

Unlikely to effect meaningful change in behavior or practice.

Learner Engagement

Encourages active participation and reflection.

Passive or no engagement, lacking in interactive opportunities.

Outcome Orientation

Focused on measurable outcomes and improvements.

Lacks clear objectives or measurable outcomes.

Feedback Incorporation

Includes mechanisms for feedback and continuous improvement.

It ignores learner feedback and has no adaptation based on results.


8. Analyzes Change

The ACCME accreditation criteria require providers to analyze changes in learners' competence, performance, or patient outcomes due to educational interventions. 


Providers must collect data on expected and actual changes then analyze their program's overall impact. This involves assessing the effectiveness of educational activities in achieving desired learning and patient care improvements.


Here is a table that contrasts the characteristics of effective vs. ineffective approaches to analyzing changes in ACCME-accredited educational programs. 



Good Analysis

Bad Analysis

Data Collection

Comprehensive, includes expected and actual changes and impact on patients.

Limited or lacks detail on learner changes or patient outcomes.

Analysis Depth

In-depth analysis of data across all activities to evaluate impact on competence and outcomes.

Superficial analysis without detailed examination of activities' impact.

Improvement Strategy

Uses analysis to inform and improve future educational interventions.

Fails to utilize analysis for future planning or improvement of educational activities.

Feedback Mechanism

Incorporates feedback from learners and stakeholders to refine the analysis.

Lacks feedback integration, missing opportunities for enhancement based on external insights.

Outcome Measurement

Measures specific and relevant outcomes related to competence, performance, and patient care.

Measures outcomes that are not directly relevant to educational goals or patient care.

Data Utilization

Effectively uses data to drive educational strategy and improve patient outcomes.

Data collected is not effectively used to inform or enhance educational strategies.


Make Sure You Meet ACCME Core Criteria

Securing your ACCME accreditation can give your organization a competitive edge and help your team get the continual education they need to provide the best services possible. 


The Core Criteria for ACCME accreditation serve as a cornerstone for ensuring the excellence and effectiveness of continuing medical education programs. By adhering to these standards, providers contribute significantly to advancing healthcare outcomes and fostering ongoing professional development within the medical community.


Joint Providership - An Easier Option

To deliver CME credits, you can become a full ACCME Accredited Provider. This is good if you meet the above requirements. However, for some organizations this is a much too lengthy and expensive process. To make this process easier, you can also pursue Joint Providership, where you work with an existing ACCME Accredited provider to offer the AMA PRA Category 1 credit. 


BeaconLive works with an existing ACCME Accredited Provider to help our customers achieve Joint Providership. If you'd like to get started with Joint Providership and delivering CME courses, you can reach out to us here.


Choose The Right CME Platform For Your Organization

Choosing the best CME platform is crucial for healthcare organizations aiming to build ACCME-accredited programs. BeaconLive stands out by offering comprehensive webinar, registration, and certificate software that simplifies CME delivery. 


Its user-friendly platform supports live and on-demand programming. With features like customized eLearning catalogs, customized registration pages, automated certificate delivery, and attendee presence checks, BeaconLive ensures a seamless, engaging educational experience. 


Additionally, its integrated eCommerce and secure cloud storage offer reliability and convenience, making it an exemplary choice for CME delivery.

Topics: Accreditation, Continuing Medical Education (CME), Medical & Healthcare

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What are ACCME guidelines and why are they important?

ACCME guidelines set standards for Continuing Medical Education, ensuring quality, relevance, and effectiveness, vital for healthcare professionals' lifelong learning and patient care improvement.

What are the consequences of non-compliance with ACCME guidelines?

Non-compliance with ACCME guidelines can lead to accreditation denial, probation, or revocation, affecting CME program credibility and funding.

How does ACCME ensure compliance with its guidelines?

ACCME ensures compliance through regular audits, documentation reviews, and monitoring of educational activities against established accreditation standards.