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ACCME Criteria Review: Competencies

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.

Today we continue working through the Educational Planning and Evaluation criteria. We have identified the educational needs underlying the activity, what the activity is designed to change, and what an appropriate format is for the activity. Now we need to make sure that the activity fits within the larger world of CME.

This criterion states the following:

The provider develops activities/educational interventions in the context of desirable physician attributes (competencies).

So what are desirable physician attributes? The good news is that these are already defined for us. These are the competencies identified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Depending on the activity, you may find a list of competencies or desirable physician attributes specific to the specialty of your target audience, but the following are the primary competencies used in CME.


  • Patient Care
  • Medical Knowledge
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Professionalism
  • Systems-Based Practice


  • Provide Patient-Centered Care
  • Work in Interdisciplinary Teams
  • Employ Evidence-Based Practice
  • Apply Quality Improvement
  • Utilize Informatics

An activity doesn't have to meet all of these, but it should meet at least one of the competencies. Or if there is another set of competencies, you should be able to identify the source (eg, the American Board of Internal Medicine's Medical Oncology Board) and the specific competency(ies) your activity is addressing.

But it really is as simple as that. What is the focus of your activity? Is it about patient care? If so, then that's the competency you should select. Is the goal to improve team communication? If yes, then you could select both "interpersonal and communication skills" and "work in interdisciplinary teams." If you don't think your activity meets any of these competencies, you may want to revisit those earlier steps in the process. How did you identify your practice gap? Is there something that needs to be revised before this activity goes forward? I've never had this happen. If the underlying reasons for an activity are well identified, they should link into at least one of these competencies—one competency is all that you need.

As I noted, these are not the only competencies out there. There are competencies for nursing continuing education and for activities focused on the interprofessional team, for example. But these are the ones most typically identified for a CME activity with ACCME accreditation.

In the next post in this series, we'll finish addressing the core accreditation criteria and we'll discuss how to evaluate the activity after it concludes.

Other Posts in This Series

CME Mission and Program Improvement

Educational Planning and Evaluation


AANS (n.d.). Some Examples of Desirable Physician Attributes from ACCME. Available at:

ACCME (2020). Accreditation Criteria. Available at:

Image credit: VideoPlasty. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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