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ACCME Commendation Criteria Review: Advances Data Use

Whether you are an accredited provider such as i3 Health or you are an educational partner working with an accredited provider, it's still important to understand the criteria that underlie continuing medical education (CME) activities. This is part of a periodic series of posts looking at what each criterion means in general and what it might mean for you.

The second set of ACCME commendation criteria are grouped around addressing public health priorities. It contains three criteria: Advances Data Use, Addresses Population Health, and Collaborates Effectively. In today's post we'll look at that first criterion.

Advances Data Use (formerly C26) states:

The provider advances the use of health and practice data for healthcare improvement.

All accredited CME is about some form of healthcare improvement. Under the standard criteria, providers are required to design activities that will change learners' skills/strategies, performance, or patient outcomes. But under those criteria, activities don't have to deal with data beyond what is reported in scholarly literature. Health and practice data come from any number of places, including a learner's own electronic health record (EHR) system. While it is also important for learners to know about where to find public health data or cancer registries and how to use the information therein, I believe that EHR data is the most useful for an individual learner because that is where they can glean information about their personal practice. By datamining a clinic's EHR, we can identify areas for improvement. We can see if any physician within a practice has outlying treatment habits.

The intent of this criterion is to teach learners how to use the data available to them and to use that data to change their practice.

There are two critical elements that make up this criterion.

1. The activity must teach about the collection, analysis, or synthesis of health and/or practice data. Note that the activity doesn't have to do all three of those steps. It could focus solely on data collection or the synthesis of data that someone else has analyzed. It can use publicly available health data, or it can focus on a learner's EHR data. It can combine any of these elements as best fits the topic being addressed.

2. The activity must use that data to teach about healthcare improvement. It is all well and good to collect, analyze, and synthesize data, but we also need to use that data. That is where this element comes in – putting the knowledge gained in the first critical element into practice.

To achieve this criterion, an accredited provider needs to offer only a few activities that meet these critical elements—ranging from two for small programs to eight for extra-large programs. But whether or not you're in a position to create that minimum number of activities, it is still worth considering the requirements when designing new activities. It may not make sense for all of your activities to focus on data collection, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to include one or two such activities in your overall program. And if your team isn't ready to design full activities that meet this criterion, try to include the spirit of this criterion in them by talking about those data sources that are available to your learners or by showing data being used to improve healthcare. Even if you aren't able to meet this criterion, the critical elements might help you improve the design of your more traditional activities, which seems like a pretty good goal to me.

Other Posts in This Series

CME Mission and Program Improvement

Educational Planning and Evaluation

Promotes Team-based Education


ACCME (2020). Accreditation Criteria. Available at:

ACCME (2021). Advances Data Use. Available at:

Image credit: RRZEicons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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