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ACCME Commendation Criteria Review: Optimizes Communication Skills

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 third set of ACCME commendation criteria are focused on skills and skills-based learning. "Enhances Skills" contains four criteria, all of which may or may not be easily attainable depending on the organization in which you provide education.

Optimizes Communication Skills (formerly C29) states:

The provider designs CME to optimize communication skills of learners.

At first glance, "communication" seems quite simple. It's all about bedside manner, right? But the ACCME takes a broader view. Communication is not just in person; it also occurs in writing. How clearly written are those discharge orders? What about the radiology report that's mailed after a mammogram? Those are also forms of communication between a provider and a patient. Education about communication skills could focus on those incredibly important in-person interactions, but it could also focus on the equally important written interactions.

There are three critical elements in this criterion.

  • You need to have some activities that are designed to improve communication skills. Exactly what communication skills are addressed is up to you and based on the needs of your learners
  • Those activities need to include evaluation of the learners' communication skills. The facilitators need to observe the learners in action. This can be done in person or over video, but it can't be just a posttest
  • The facilitators must use those evaluations to provide formative feedback. This has to be more than a pass or fail. There should be suggestions and the opportunity to try again, taking that feedback into account

To achieve this criterion, you must show anywhere from two to eight activities, depending on the size of your program. There is no minimum percentage of activities that should be focused on communication skills, which does make the standard slightly simpler than some of the other criteria we've covered. The difficulty of achieving this criterion comes from whether or not your program is structured in a way that allows facilitators to observe and provide formative feedback. Summative feedback that occurs at the end of an activity is fairly simple. We do that all the time with posttests. Formative feedback takes some work and a lot of advanced planning. But if you are in a position to design these activities, the value they bring to learners cannot be denied. You don't even have to show that the activity was effective although it's hard to imagine that participation in an activity that meets the critical elements won't impart something about how to improve their communication skills.

Other Posts in This Series

CME Mission and Program Improvement

Educational Planning and Evaluation

Promotes Team-Based Education

Addresses Public Health Priorities


ACCME (2020). Accreditation Criteria. Available at: 

ACCME (2021). Optimizes Communication Skills. Available at:

Image credit: Selena Wilke. Licensed under public domain

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