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An Update on the ACCME’s Accreditation Criteria

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 underly 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.

In October, I started a periodic series on the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education's (ACCME's) accreditation criteria. You can read posts about Criterion 1 and Criterion 2, but those designations are now out-of-date. In December, the ACCME released their new Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education. At the same time, the ACCME revised their accreditation criteria, eliminating the numeric designations and reducing the overlap that previously existed in the criteria. The good news is that the posts on C1 and C2 are still accurate as far as what the criteria say and require are concerned; the only change is that they are no longer called C1 and C2.

The criteria are now divided into two main groups: the required Core Accreditation Criteria and the optional Menu of Criteria for Accreditation with Commendation.

Core Accreditation Criteria

This group of criteria consists of the former Criteria 1-13. These are the basics things that any CME program needs to do in order to become accredited. They are divided into two groups. Yes, you will note that there are not 13 criteria listed below; some criteria were eliminated in a prior revision.

CME Mission and Program Improvement

There are three criteria within this subsection, and the unifying feature is that they are all focused on the CME program as a whole. The criteria included in this section are:

  • Mission—what the CME mission statement should include (formerly C1)
  • Program Analysis—how the CME program as a whole is evaluated (formerly C12)
  • Program Improvements—how the program analysis is used to make the program better (formerly C13)
Educational Planning and Evaluation

The five criteria in this subsection are focused on how individual CME activities are designed and evaluated. The criteria included in this section are:

  • Educational Needs—the underlying reasons for practice gaps (formerly C2)
  • Designed to Change—the level(s) of outcomes anticipated from an activity (formerly C3)
  • Appropriate Formats—why the format is right for the activity (formerly C5)
  • Competencies—the desirable physician attributes linked to the activity (formerly C6)
  • Analyzes Change—how the activity is evaluated (formerly C11)
Menu of Criteria for Accreditation with Commendation (Optional)

The ACCME originally had commendation criteria that, while optional, were required to be met in full. This made it impossible for some programs to achieve commendation because their organizational structure simply did not fit the criteria, which is why the new menu was created. Programs can now pick eight of the following criteria to achieve commendation. Because there was a period during which both the old list and the new menu were active, the numbering system will look a little odd; that's simply because the old list has now been completely eliminated and replaced with the options on the menu.

Promotes Team-based Education

Health care is about more than just physicians, and this group of criteria focuses on planning activities that include the other individuals that are involved in healthcare.

  • Engages Teams—includes other health care professionals (formerly C23)
  • Engages Patients/Public—includes patients and/or public representatives (formerly C24)
  • Engages Students—includes students of the health professions (formerly C25)
Addresses Public Health Priorities

As an MPH, this group is near and dear to my heart. These criteria are focused on the big picture and how a CME program may be able to impact the larger community.

  • Advances Data Use—the use of health and practice data for health care improvement (formerly C26)
  • Addresses Population Health—includes factors outside of clinical care (formerly C27)
  • Collaborates Effectively—how the program works with other organizations on public health priorities (formerly C28)
Enhances Skills

This subsection is focused on the education that is not typically included in so-called "traditional" CME.

  • Optimizes Communication Skills—education focused on communication (formerly C29)
  • Optimizes Technical/Procedural Skills—education focused on technical and/or procedural skills (formerly C30)
  • Creates Individualized Learning Plans—works with individual learners to tailor their professional development (formerly C31)
  • Utilizes Support Strategies—how education is supported after an activity has ended (formerly C32)
Demonstrates Educational Leadership

These criteria are focused on the fact that CME should be research-based, just like the education we offer should be research-based.

  • Engages in Research/Scholarship—research and scholarship about CME (formerly C33)
  • Supports Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for CME Team—includes professional development options for CME staff members (formerly C34)
  • Demonstrates Creativity/Innovation—comes up with new ideas for the growth and/or evolution of the program (formerly C35)
Achieves Outcomes

While all of the previous subgroups are completely optional, at least one of the three criteria in this subsection must be included in order to achieve commendation. They go farther than the evaluation requirements that are part of the Core Accreditation Criteria.

  • Improves Performances—demonstrates that performance has changed (formerly C36)
  • Improves Health Care Quality—demonstrates that quality has changed (formerly C37)
  • Improves Patient/Community Health—demonstrates that patient and/or community health has changed (formerly C38)

The criteria themselves are largely unchanged, but we do now have new language to refer to them. The order I address them in this periodic series will be revised to meet this new format. So while I'd initially planned to cover C3 next, instead I'll focus on the former C12. You can look for that in the next ACCME Criteria Review post.


Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (2020). Accreditation Criteria. Available at: 

Image credit: Aizhan Sagu. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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