What to Know About ACCME CME Gift Card Regulations/CME Allowance Policy

CMEList January 22, 2021

Many medical professionals wonder whether or not it's okay to spend their CME allowance on CME activities that offer incentives such as a gift card or an item with a large monetary value like an Apple iPad.

It's important to know the rules set by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and the organization providing you your CME allowance before purchasing a CME activity to complete your CME requirements.

Below we have highlighted the ACCME’s regulations around CME offers and the parameters a CME provider must follow to ensure their activities and CME gift card bundles are eligible for clinicians to use their stipend on.

Marketing Incentives for Accredited CME

Some CME providers like BoardVitals offer complimentary gift cards or high-value items with their CME activities. These bonus incentives are offered as a way for clinicians to further their learning. It's important to know, however, that the ACCME suggests that these accredited providers consider the following actions and are transparent when offering these kinds of incentives:

  • Ensure the receipt separates and discloses the nature and value of the incentives of tangible monetary value (such as a device or a gift card) from the cost of the learning activity itself.
  • Ensure that purchasers are aware of potential implications of the incentives on their tax reporting obligations.

Clinicians should ensure that the activity clearly meets these standards when purchasing their CME activity. Otherwise, they open themselves to the risk of their organization declining their CME purchase. It is suggested that clinicians contact the provider’s support team if they have any questions regarding meeting this criteria.

ACCME Accreditation Rules

In addition to following the rules regarding high value-incentives, providers must follow ACCME’s accreditation rules to ensure their CME bundles are eligible for CME credits. There are three parts to the ACCME's accreditation rules

  • Accreditation Criteria
  • Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education
  • ACCME Policies

Accreditation Criteria

CME providers seeking Provisional Accreditation need to comply with the following Core Accreditation Criteria:

  • Mission: The provider has a CME mission statement that includes expected results articulated in terms of changes in competence, performance, or patient outcomes that will be the result of the program. (formerly Criterion 1)
  • Program Analysis: The provider gathers data or information and conducts a program-based analysis on the degree to which the CME mission of the provider has been met through the conduct of CME activities/educational interventions. (formerly Criterion 12)
  • Educational Needs: The provider incorporates into CME activities the educational needs (knowledge, competence, or performance) that underlie the professional practice gaps of their own learners. (formerly Criterion 2)
  • Designed to Change: The provider generates activities/educational interventions that are designed to change competence, performance, or patient outcomes as described in its mission statement. (formerly Criterion 3)
  • Analyzes Change: The provider analyzes changes in learners (competence, performance, or patient outcomes) achieved as a result of the overall program's activities/educational interventions. (formerly Criterion 11)

CME providers seeking Accreditation (four-year term) need to comply with all of the Core Accreditation Criteria, which can be viewed on the ACCME's website here.

There is also an Accreditation with Commendation that requires compliance of an additional eight criteria from the commendation menu.

Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education

The Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education were released in December 2020, replacing the Standards for Commercial Support: Standards to Ensure Independence in CEM Activities. These Standards are designed to:

  • Ensure that accredited continuing education serves the needs of patients and the public.
  • Present learners with only accurate, balanced, scientifically justified recommendations.
  • Assure healthcare professionals and teams that they can trust accredited continuing education to help them deliver safe, effective, cost-effective, compassionate care that is based on best practice and evidence.
  • Create a clear, unbridgeable separation between accredited continuing education and marketing and sales.

ACCME Policies

ACCME policies supplement the accreditation requirements. Accredited CME providers need to adhere to the policies that are relevant to their organization.

These policies range from agreeing to meet administrative deadlines to reviewing materials a certain amount of times to prove their validity to retaining activity files/records of CME activity planning and presentation.