By Sarah Porter
Reaccreditation. For some accredited providers, the word reaccreditation is an instant headache or a jolt of anxiety. For others, the word invokes a sense of dread knowing that one’s workload is about to increase. Still, there are a few providers who are ready to tackle the reaccreditation process, and those who are anxious to showcase their CME program. Regardless of where an accredited provider falls, engaging a consultant can have many potential benefits, although, ultimately, it is not a fit for all accredited providers.
Some considerations for engaging a consultant for the reaccreditation process include:
Insight to Best Practice(s)/Program Benchmarking
Often, an outside consultant works with several different accredited providers, and they have a unique perspective as to best practices spanning various provider types, from universities and hospitals to medical specialty societies, insurance companies and medical education companies.
This knowledge of best practices isn’t applicable solely to the reaccreditation process, as often this knowledge relates more broadly to best practices for managing CME/CE programs and activities. Depending on their own expertise and experience, accredited providers may find such insight useful in benchmarking and evolving their own CME/CE programs. As one accredited provider indicated, “As a risk mitigation institution, [we] recognized the risk on venturing into providing CME\CE without partnering with a consultant that is a subject matter expert in the field.”
While an accredited provider’s day-to-day workflow informs the reaccreditation process and serves as the foundation for content featuring a provider’s CME/CE program, the reaccreditation process is typically a project beyond the scope of the provider unit’s day-to-day responsibilities.
The reaccreditation process offers each organization the opportunity to assess and strategize around the CME/CE program; this is a crucial opportunity that draws on both staff time and organizational resources. Depending upon the structure of the provider unit, time and resources may be stretched.
Engaging an outside consultant can provide added capacity to help manage reaccreditation milestones, working collaboratively with the provider unit. Beyond helping manage specific reaccreditation deliverables, an outside consultant can bring value by outlining a detailed project plan, engaging all applicable stakeholders, and keeping all stakeholders on track and moving forward.
Project management alone is a significant factor when it comes to a successful reaccreditation. While a consultant can bring added capacity, it is important to note that staff time and input are still required in order to get the most benefit out of the process.
Consultants typically engage in the reaccreditation process more frequently than once every four to six years, which informs their expertise. Engaging a consultant to assist with the reaccreditation process provides a formal structure. Depending on the consultant, this formalized structure generally includes detailed timelines for Self-Study Report narrative development and review, and Performance-in-Practice compilation and review.
Additionally, consultants often have structured processes and tools, such as checklists and tips, which help ensure that every aspect of the reaccreditation process is appropriately addressed.
Insight to New Processes
While the ACCME has moved to an online submission system for a more direct and simplified approach, this is a change that requires providers get up-to-speed with new requirements. A consultant who has previously engaged in this new process can provide valuable tips and strategies for managing the reaccreditation process most efficiently.
For example, while minor, previously the Self-Study Report could include formatting, such as bolding, italicizing or underlining important text, or include graphs, tables or charts. With the new submission process via PARS, such formatting is not available.
Additionally, the new process limits what providers may upload.
The knowledge a consultant brings regarding process or policy changes can save accredited providers both time and energy. This is not limited to the ACCME’s reaccreditation process; it includes changes to the reaccreditation process(es) with other boards as well.
At the end of the day, all accredited providers have their own unique blind spots. Bringing in a fresh set of eyes can help to identify potential areas of improvement. A consultant can aid in sifting out potential areas of non-compliance that an accredited provider should 1) be prepared to speak to during the accreditation interview and 2) correct immediately to bring the CME/CE program back into compliance.
Alternatively, a consultant may not find compliance issues, but he or she can provide insights as to achieving commendable practices or implementing program efficiencies that would help a CME/CE provider improve upon its mission. To this end, one accredited provider indicated that their organization determined there would be significant value in engaging a consultant to provide an external set of eyes to objectively assess compliance and Performance-in-Practice documentation.
Reaccreditation is intended to facilitate reflection and analysis, and a consultant can help ensure this part of the process is achieved in a productive, action-oriented manner.
Improved Policies, Procedures and Processes
As highlighted, engaging a consultant can bring insight into best practice and expertise as well as help identify a CME/CE program’s blind spots, helping an accredited provider pinpoint specific areas of improvement.
Additionally, the CME/CE enterprise is ever changing and requires that CME/CE providers ensure they stay up-to-date. In the last several years alone, the following changes and evolutions have occurred:
- ACCME New Menu for Accreditation with Commendation
- ACCME and AMA Simplification
- Expansion of ACCME’s Collaboration with ABMS Boards
- Expansion of Joint Accreditation
- ACCME’s Recent Call for Comment Regarding the Standards for Commercial SupportSM
An outside consultant can assist with ensuring an accredited provider’s internal policies, procedures and processes reflect the most up-to-date information and that they promote efficiency and effectiveness. As one accredited provider stated, “Hiring a consultant to help with reaccreditation provided us with a knowledgeable advocate to lead us through the examination of our program, polices and processes. It had been four years and many staff changes since our last reaccreditation. Our consultants brought stability and reliability to the CME program, reduced the burden on internal staff to keep up with CME regulations and gave us insight into best practices. They brought our program out of the silo within our organization and helped us connect with and benefit from the larger CME community.”
Ultimately, an accredited provider must assess whether engaging a consultant for reaccreditation is a best fit for their organization and their CME/CE provider unit by weighing all applicable factors