The COPE program was established by ARBO in 1993 to accredit continuing education on behalf of optometric licensing boards in order to define the educational standards for license renewal. These standards reduce the duplication and burden on state and provincial boards and their governments by providing a system of ensuring the quality and defensibility of continuing education. The COPE system helps to ensure the competency of optometrists applying for renewed licensure.
ARBO has evolved the COPE accreditation system to align with medicine and other healthcare professions. In August of 2017, the COPE program was deemed substantially equivalent to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) CME accreditation system. To achieve ACCME equivalency, COPE submitted to an extensive, voluntary, review process and was deemed substantially equivalent to the ACCME’s accreditation requirements, criteria, policies, and decision-making process.
So, what is substantial ACCME equivalency?
CE/CME Accreditors are considered substantially equivalent by the ACCME if they support CE/CME that:
- Enhances physician performance
- Is based on data describing physicians’ educational needs (i.e., by identifying professional practice gaps).
- Has effectiveness assessed as it relates to physician performance or health status improvements, (measuring outcomes and determining if the educational objectives were met, i.e., will the CE help make you a better doctor and will your patients be healthier).
- Is developed with the control of the content, quality, and scientific integrity being the responsibility of the CE/CME provider (the program is independent of commercial influence and follows the Standards for Commercial Support).
CE has changed . . .
CE/CME is no longer simply about getting hours because you need them for license renewal. Research shows that CE/CME is most effective when it’s based on practice-based needs assessment and focused on outcomes. The COPE Accreditation system requires CE to be based on the educational needs of optometrists to improve competence, performance and patient outcomes. COPE also requires an assessment of CE activities to determine if the educational objective were met for continuous quality improvement.
Why is ACCME equivalency important to COPE and Optometry?
- With healthcare moving towards a more team-based approach, CE/CME now often requires collaborative education efforts.
- COPE accredited CE will now use the same standards as medicine and other healthcare professions and will be seen as equivalent education.
- COPE accredited CE is defensible to legislatures and review commissions.
- COPE’s Standards for Commercial Support, adopted from the ACCME, provide a safe harbor for industry support of optometric CE.
- COPE accredited CE is now an even stronger tool for licensing boards to confidently determine that licensees are meeting the highest standards of continued competence.
What does this mean for licensing boards?
There is a big difference between ‘accepted’ CE and ‘accredited’ CE. In the beginning, each board decided what type of education was ‘acceptable’ for re-licensure. This was based on very well-meaning and dedicated board members who were doing the best they could at the time to determine if the education met minimal standards. To be sure, we stand on the shoulders of many of those early board members. However, health care has changed, and the stakes are higher in the public protection game. Gone are the days when we can simply ‘accept’ CE based on local tradition.
Healthcare providers in all professions are held to a higher standard and so are the boards that license them. To ensure their licensees are competent, licensing boards must require CE that meets the highest standards in the industry and can stand up to the scrutiny of public demand and government oversight. COPE is a comprehensive system of accrediting CE which includes continuously improving quality measures to promote an innovative learning experience with diverse content. COPE was created by you for you and it is the only CE accreditation program in optometry able to deliver those high standards. Your board will be well served to accept only CE that meets COPE’s and ACCME’s accreditation standards. With anything less are you really doing your job of protecting the public?