Frequently Asked Questions

Responses taken from ACCME website and Joint Accreditation for Interprofessional Continuing Education, 2015.

The American Medical Association describes CME as “ . . . educational activities which serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance and relationships that a physician uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession. The content of CME is the body of knowledge and skills generally recognized and accepted by the profession as within the basic medical sciences, the discipline of clinical medicine and the provision of health care to the public.”

CME is designed to improve the knowledge, competence, and professional performance of physicians, no matter what their roles are. Any educational activity that meets the professional development needs of physicians involved in clinical care, research, and education is appropriate for CME.

CME activities are designed by practicing physicians for practicing physicians, M.D.s or D.O.s. As of 2015, residents are now included as physician participants. This ensures that topics and content are targeted toward physicians on their level of education and experience. While nurses, other health care professionals, and students are welcome to attend, their profession-specific educational needs are not typically included in the design of educational activities for physicians.

As multi-disciplinary health care teams become more widespread, it is reasonable to expect CME activity planners will have an increasing tendency to design content that is directed toward multiple health care disciplines. The goal of this education will be to address the professional practice gaps of the health care team using an educational planning process that reflects input from those health care professionals who make up the team. The education is designed to change the skills/strategy, performance, or patient outcomes of the health care team.

The field of medicine is complex and rapidly changing. The physician is constantly gaining new knowledge and learning new skills in an effort to improve patient outcomes. Continuing medical education is one of the methods established to assist physicians in this lifelong learning process.

Early CME did not have a definite direction. Topics were broad and often chosen at random. Little or no thought was given to changing physician behavior through participation in CME. In recent years, CME has evolved with evidence-based goals achieved by taking an active role in improving physician competence and performance.

Continuing medical education can now be thought of as a four-stage process. The first step is to identify a professional practice gap or problem in practice. The second step is to engage in one or more educational interventions designed to reduce or eliminate the gap or problem. The third step is to evaluate the educational intervention(s) for the degree to which the gap was closed. The fourth step is to seek additional learning opportunities to completely eliminate the gap or problem.