At a time when the only thing that is constant is change, Continuing Medical Education (CME) has proved to be very valuable for the medical fraternity in keeping pace with evolving science. CME not only helps in refining physicians’ performance but also improves the quality assurance in hospitals.
In April 2011, the erstwhile MCI passed a resolution on CME, by which it was made mandatory for all doctors to attend a minimum of 30 hours of CME every 5 years, failing which their registration to practice would be suspended.
Authorised accreditation councils and licensing authorities award CME credits for the maintenance of physicians’ licenses. The process of accreditation involves the review and evaluation of an educational programme by a designated authority, using a set of clearly defined criteria and procedures. The National Medical Commission (NMC) and the State Medical Councils (SMCs) are the major CME regulators in India. They also accredit the CME events and allocate credits to the HCPs. Other CME regulators include the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Association of Physicians of India and individual certification programmes.
CME accreditation criteria by State Medical Councils
- The SMC solely takes the decision to award credit hours which depends on the quality of the subject matter, and the status and credibility of the speaker
- The office-bearers of the organisation planning to provide the CME are expected to apply for accreditation to their respective SMC
- Besides the topic and duration of the presentation, the complete schedule and transcripts of the event, including faculty names, designations, qualifications and country of residence, are to accompany the application
- Different SMCs in India showed highly varying criteria for CME credit hours; e.g. Chhattisgarh Medical Council, Madhya Pradesh Medical Council and Himachal Pradesh Medical Council award two credit hours for a half-day event as compared with one credit hour by the Tamil Nadu Medical Council. Different SMCs award variable credit points for conducting a CME programme/workshop/conference, publication of medical textbooks or papers, and for attending/presenting at conferences. Other criteria for awarding CME credit points include a subscription to journals, postgraduate courses for doctors, guest lectures, attendance at a guest lecture by foreign faculty, and online module certification
- Accredited professional bodies, such as the IMA, which arrange CME programmes regularly, have to inform the SMC of the date and time of the event in advance so that the SMC can assign an observer
- Upon validation of the organisation and event credentials, the SMC issues a certificate of accreditation
- The providing organisation has to make prior arrangements for publicity to reach out to the target group of participants/delegates
- The providing organisation must not award certificates to the attending participants/delegates until the last day, i.e. after completion of the CME programme
- The providing organisation has to ensure that the list of delegates and their feedback is sent to the accrediting SMC. A distinct list of delegates belonging to the various SMCs should be submitted to the accrediting SMC
- The accreditation certificate of the issuing organisation will be revoked if found to have been fabricated
The CME events organised by the following are not accredited by SMCs:
- Drug/equipment company for promotion of their product
- Individual nursing homes/hospitals for marketing purposes
- Those for self-promotion or advertisement
- Non-registered professional bodies
- Credit hours are not given for live operative workshops conducted by foreign delegates unless they obtain provisional registration from NMC
A major roadblock in the implementation of CME programmes in India has been accessibility. Doctors in rural areas have very limited access to the resources. Data says that only about 20% of India’s doctors comply with the existing guideline to complete 30 hours of CME/5 years, as it is not legally binding. In order to achieve a healthcare workforce that is updated with the latest scientific research and new advances in clinical skills, we need to plug the gaps that keep us away from improving patient care.