COPE’s Continuing Education Accreditation System Earns High Rating Following ACCME Review

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The continuing education, or CE, accreditation system used by the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education, or COPE, has been deemed as “substantially equivalent” to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education’s (ACCME) CME accreditation system following an intensive voluntary review process by ACCME, according to an announcement by COPE earlier this week.

The ACCME “substantially equivalent” rating is “on par with ACCME’s gold standard,” a COPE official told VMail in a telephone interview. COPE was established in 1993 by the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO) to accredit continuing education on behalf of optometric licensing boards for the public welfare, and 52,000 activities have been accredited since the program’s inception. At least 52 licensing boards accept COPE accredited courses toward maintenance of licensure, according to the ARBO website.

“We’re very excited that COPE has achieved substantial equivalency with ACCME,” said Richard Orgain, OD, president of ARBO. “With healthcare moving towards a team-based approach, CE/CME now often requires collaborative education efforts. With COPE’s accreditation process recognized as equivalent to the other healthcare professions, the door is open for optometrists to participate in inter-professional continuing education.”

In the review process, COPE submitted to considerable documentation to ACCME to support its request for the new accreditation rating. The process also included an accreditation interview and verification of the successful implementation of the COPE provider accreditation program, according to the announcement.

COPE has historically accredited individual CE activities, but in January 2017 an option was introduced for accreditation of CE providers, thus allowing greater freedom and flexibility, the announcement noted.

The intention of the change was, in part, to modernize the COPE accreditation system to align with other health professions, according to Dr. James Campbell, COPE’s committee chair.

“CE/CME is no longer simply about getting hours because you need them for license renewal,” he added. “Research shows that CE/CME is most effective when it’s based upon practice-based needs assessment and focused on outcomes. With these changes, we’re able to demonstrate that COPE accredited CE has positive effects on optometrists’ knowledge, performance, and patient outcomes.”

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; has effectiveness assessed as it relates to physician performance or health status improvements; and is developed with the control of the content, quality and scientific integrity being the responsibility of the CE/CME provider, according to the announcement.