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CME Activity Planning Guide

The steps below provide detailed information for planning an educational activity and certifying it for CME credit through the UTHSC College of Medicine at Chattanooga (UTCOMC).

The mission of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine (UTCOM) is to serve the continuing education needs of Tennessee physicians, so your educational activity must target Tennessee physicians in order to be considered for CME credit through the UTCOM. Click the underlined words below for more info or to download the form.

Before Your CME Activity

Step 1) Review the CME Activity Content Requirements and associated Fees

Read the Content Requirements section on the top of page 2 of the CME Credit Application & Activity Summary to ensure that your activity's content is CME, and review the Fee Schedule for CME services to familiarize yourself with our fees for CME services.  Contact the Office of CME with any questions about either. 

Step 2) Choose Administrators & Planners for your CME Activity

Assign roles to your planners before you do much planning for your CME activity, so that it is clear who will be responsible for compliance with the CME policies and other aspects of your CME activity. Two primary roles must take responsibility for administering a UTCOM-certified CME activity: an Activity Medical Director and an Activity Coordinator. These administrators will be required to sign attestations stating that they will ensure that the planning and content of your activity complies with all CME policies. Enlist the help of other planners that can make a significant contribution to the educational content of your CME activity. You may have as many planners as you want, but all planners for your CME activity must complete the Commercial Independence form for Planners.

Step 3) Develop Learning Objectives for your CME Actviity

*Sections 1-5 (pages 2 & 3) of our CME Credit Application & Activity Summary walk you the process of developing learning objectives.

First, you need to identify your target audience and a professional practice gap that exists for them. Your target audience's professional practice gap will be used to identify their specific educational needs, which will be your guide in developing the specific learning objectives for your CME activity. Learning objectives are required because they ensure that the activity is designed to improve the professional practice of your target audience. Coordinate with the Office of CME if you have any questions or concerns in developing the learning objectives for your educational activity.

Step 4) Design the Educational Curriculum for your CME Activity

*Sections 5-12 (pages 3 & 4) of our CME Credit Application & Activity Summary walk you the process of designing the educational curriculum for your CME activity.

Physician education is the sole purpose for your CME activity, so you want to make sure your educational curriculum addresses the learning objectives you have identified for your target audience. The process of selecting educational topics, formats, and content providers for a CME activity is often best when it is a collaborative effort that includes everyone who can provide insight about topics that support your learning objectives, the educational formats that are most appropriate for your topics & audience, and/or sources for educational content on your topics. Choose educational topics and areas of interest that support the specific learning objectives you have identified for your target audience. Choose educational formats that will best engage your target audience and facilitate their learning. What educational formats will keep them awake and make learning memorable? Choose providers of educational content with expertise on the topics & educational formats you have chosen. Refer back to your Learning Objectives: Coordinate with your providers of educational content to ensure that the content they prepare remains focused on the learning objectives you identified. Commercial Independence: The following aspects of your CME activity must be free from control of a commercial interest: a) identification of educational needs, b) determination of learning objectives, c) selection and presentation of content, d) selection of all persons and organizations that will be in a position to control the content of the CME, e) selection of the educational formats and methods, and f) evaluation of the activity.  Agreements with Speakers: Agreements with speakers for CME activities are most often verbal (informal & non-binding), but having written contracts with all providers of educational content for your CME activity can be beneficial because it ensures that roles are clearly defined and it contractually obligates third parties to their responsibilities. Honoraria: Speakers can be paid an honorarium and reimbursed for travel expenses for giving a presentation at your CME activity, but these expenses may not be paid directly from a commercial interest. 

Step 5) Plan the Agenda for your CME Activity

When determining the best dates & times for your CME activity, consider the availability of your target audience and educational content providers. Also consider specific variables that could affect the availability of your target audience. For example, you wouldn't want to schedule your CME activity on the same day as an annual national conference that everyone in your target audience attends. The agenda you provide with your CME Credit Application should include breaks between educational sessions, related social events, and all other activities you expect your attendees to engage in. Commercial breaks are prohibited in the educational space.

Step 6) Have all Planners & Speakers complete a Commercial Independence form

All planners and speakers (or other providers of educational content) for your CME activity must complete a Commerical Independence form at least 1 week prior to the activity, which has them disclose their relevant financial relationships (or the lack thereof) and agree to comply with CME policies. All planners must complete the Commercial Independence form for Planners, and all speakers and other providers of educational content must complete the Commercial Independence form for Speakers.

Step 7) Commercial Independence Form Review & Notification

The Activity Medical Director and Activity Coordinator must review the Commercial Independence form for every planner & speaker, and must notify the Office of CME immediately whenever someone has checked "Yes" to both Yes/No questions on the bottom of page 1 of the form.  See the Conflict of Interest Policy section of the CME Credit Application for more information.

Step 8) Choose a Venue for your CME Activity

What venue will work best for your target audience and the educational topics, content & formats you have chosen? Are any food/beverages, social events, or other learner accommodations appropriate? All aspects of your CME activity should be designed to facilitate learning and the specific needs of your target audience. When choosing a venue, consider facility costs and make sure the venue you choose supports the general audio, visual & technology needs of the educational formats you have chosen. Don't just assume your desired venue will be available on the dates & times you have chosen because many of the best venues are booked months or years in advance. You'll also want to go ahead and determine what services (if any) the venue provides for any food/beverages, social events, or other amenities that you plan to provide to learners, so that you can arrange these from another source if the venue does not provide them.  Expenses for social events may not be paid directly from a commercial interest

Step 9) Plan the Accommodations & Amenities for Learners

Make arrangements for any accommodations and amenities that you will provide to learners at your CME activity such as the program materials, educational materials, name tags, limited seating, food/beverages, advance registration, etc. For live activities where you provide seating, printed materials, food/beverages or other limited accommodations, consider allowing attendees to register in advance, so that you do not provide significantly too few or too many accommodations. Meals or social events may not compete with or take precedence over the educational content.  Also Consider: Costs - Do your amenities and budget necessitate that you charge a registration fee?  Physicians are sometimes willing to pay registration fees to attend CME activities with several hours of relevant CME content and nice amenities. 

Step 10) Prepare the Supporting Documents for your CME Credit Application

You are required to provide 6-8 supporting documents with your CME Credit Application & Activity Summary depending on how many hours of education your activity has and whether or not your will receive commercial support for the activity. The CME Credit Application webpage is a useful resource for the required supporting documents because it provides more information about the required documentation and templates to get you started.

Step 11) Apply for CME Credit for your educational activity

By this point, the planning and coordination for your CME activity should be sufficient to allow you to submit your CME Credit Application & Activity Summary, but keep in mind that a risk will exist for your venue, educational content providers, and other third-parties to not follow through with their responsibilities unless you have a written agreements with them. You should have a reasonable level of commitment from all parties that will contribute to your CME activity before submitting your application. Supporting Documents: You will be required to provide several supporting documents with your CME Credit Application & Activity Summary, as explained on the last page of the application.  

Step 12) Promote your CME Activity

No CME Marketing Prior to CME Approval: You can begin creating the promotional materials for your CME activity as early in the activity planning process as you would like, but promotion of the CME credit for an educational activity is prohibited until the activity has been approved for CME credit by the Office of CME; this includes statements such as "CME credit has been applied for.", use of the Credit & Accrediation statements, and mention of the UTCOM's affiliation with your activity. Importance: Activity promotion can be a key ingredient to earning attendance if your activity does not already have a devoted following.  Required Statements: All marketing materials for a CME activity that mention CME credit must include the AMA Credit statement and Accreditation statement, as explained in the Promotion of Your CME Activity section of the CME Credit Application & Activity Summary.  

Step 13) Coordinate the Receipt of any Revenues for your CME Activity (if applicable)

Common revenues received for CME activities include registration fees, exhibiting fees, advertising fees, and educational grants or other types of commercial support.  Many CME activities do not charge registration fees, but physicians are often willing to pay registration fees to attend actviities with several hours of CME credit related to topics that interest them.  Any commercial support received from a commercial interest must be coordinated through the Office of CME, but all other revenues do not require our involvement. 

Step 14) Complete a Letter of Agreement for each disbursement of Commercial Support received for this activity (if applicable)

A letter of agreement must be signed between the commercial interest, UTCOM, and your organization for each disbursement of commercial support (financial or in-kind) received for your CME activity.  You can use a letter of agreement from the commercial interest if they provided one, or use our Commercial Support Letter of Agreement template if the commercial interest did not provide one.

Step 15) Create the Program Materials & Educational Materials 

Prepare all of the program materials and educational materials that will be provided to learners for your CME activity. If your program materials & educational materials will be printed, this means coordinating with your printer to format the content for print and then having it printed. If your program materials & educational materials will be transmitted digitally (i.e., emailed or downloaded), this means formatting the content digitally (in files or webpages) and providing learners with access to them. Program Materials Content: Your program materials should contain an overview of the activity, the agenda or schedule, and information about the expertise of the speakers and other providers of educational content, but several disclosures also need to be included in some part of your program materials for CME purposes: a) the learning objectives for the activity, b) the AMA Credit statement and Accreditation statement, c) the relevant financial relationships (or lack thereof) for all speakers (and other providers of educational content), and d) any commercial support received for the activity (if applicable); see the Disclosures to Learners section of the CME Credit Application for details about what is required in disclosing each piece of information listed above Educational Materials Content: All educational content should be evidence-based, educational (not promotional), and unbiased by commercial interests, and all speakers and other providers of educational content agree to these policies when they complete a Commercial Independence form. Content Limitations: Educational materials that are part of a CME activity such as handouts, abstracts & slides may not contain any advertising, trade name, or product-group messages. Printed advertisements and promotional materials may not be interleafed within the pages of the CME content, but they may face the first or last pages of printed CME content as long as these materials are not related to the CME content they face. Schedules, content descriptions, and other information that is not directly related to the transfer of education to the learner may include advertisements and/or product-promotion messages. Evaluations:  Your CME activity must be evaluated, and evaluations must include a question that asks learners if they perceived commercial bias at the activity. See CME Credit Application for more information about evaluating your CME activity. If 2 or more hours of Education: If your CME activity has 2 or more hours of CME, you need to create a Credit Declaration form for learners to complete after the CME activity as a way of attesting which sessions they attended.  Technology & Accessibility: Consider making your activity materials available on a website and allowing learners to download them prior to the activity as a way of utilizing the "anywhere" accessibility of the Internet. Minimizing Waste: Providing your activity materials via the Internet can also be a great way to save time & money if doing so means you do not need to print them; just make sure that your learners won't be disappointed by not receiving a printed version if you choose not to provide one.

During Your CME Activity

Step 16) Distribute the Program Materials and Educational Materials to Learners Prior to the Education

The program materials for your CME activity contain important disclosures and CME statements that learners need to see prior the education, so you will need to provide all program materials and educational materials to the learners at your CME activity prior to the education. 

Step 17) Ensure Compliance with CME Policies

Several issues require compliance with CME policies during your CME activity.  Most of these are taken care of in the planning stages, but we address them again here (in this guide) as useful reminders.  Independence: The presentation of content and evaluation of the activity must be free from control of a commercial interest. A commercial interest may not serve as the agent providing a CME activity to learners (e.g., arranging for electronic access to CME activities or distributing self-study CME activities). Social Events & Meals: Social events or meals may not compete with or take precedence over the educational event. Disclosures to Learners: The following disclosures must be provided to learners: a) the learning objectives for the activity, b) the AMA Credit statement and Accreditation statement, c) the relevant financial relationships (or lack thereof) for all planners & speakers (and other providers of educational content), and d) any commercial support received (if applicable). Promotion During your CME Activity: Arrangements for commercial exhibits or advertisements may not influence planning, interfere with the presentation, or be a condition of the provision of commercial support for CME activities. Promotional exhibits/activities/interactions, advertisements, and promotional materials are prohibited in the educational space immediately before, during, and after a CME activity. Commercial breaks are prohibited. Educational materials that are part of a CME activity such as handouts, abstracts & slides may not contain any advertising, trade name, or product-group messages. Printed advertisements and promotional materials may not be interleafed within the pages of the CME content, but they may face the first or last pages of printed CME content as long as these materials are not related to the CME content they face. Schedules, content descriptions, and other information that is not directly related to the transfer of education to the learner may include advertisements and/or product-promotion messages. Evaluations: Learners must be provided with an opportunity to evaluate the CME activity.

Step 18) Evaluate your CME Activity

All learners at your CME activity must be given an opportunity to evaluate the activity. See the Activity Impact & Evaluation section of the CME Credit Application for more information about evaluating your CME activity.

Step 19) Have learners complete a Credit Declaration form (if 2 hours or more of CME)

All learners at your CME activity should complete a Credit Declaration form if your activity has 2 hours or more of CME. This form is not necessary if your activity has less than 2 hours of CME.

After Your CME Activity

Step 20) Close-out your CME Activity

You are required to complete the CME Activity Closeout form in order to close-out a CME activity and request that we issue the CME credit certificates for the activity. If your conference has multiple meetings and you want the Office of CME to issue CME credit certificates after an individual meeting, you will need to complete the CME Meeting Closeout form after that meeting, and you will still need to complete the CME Activity Closeout form after the last session is over. Visit the CME Activity Closeout webpage for more information about closing-out your CME activity and having the CME credit certificates issued.

Step 21) Process the payment for CME services  (does not apply to UTCOM departments)

After you have submitted your CME Activity Closeout form and supporting documents, you will receive an invoice for the CME services provided for your CME activity (course certification, issuance of CME credit certificates, and commercial support administration (if applicable)).

The steps above are meant to serve as general guidelines, do not always take place in a lock-step sequence, and do not necessarily apply to every CME activity.

Additional Planning Considerations

About Compliance with CME Policies

All CME activities certified by the UTCOM are expected to be planned, implemented, and evaluated in compliance with the Essentials Areas and Elements established by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) as well as the policies of the Office of CME at the UTCOM (as outlined in the CME Credit Application and the Commercial Independence forms).

Budgeting and Financial Obligation

The host organization accepts responsibility for any financial profits or loss incurred for a CME activity. Payment for UTCOM CME services is not contingent upon the profitability (or lack thereof) of the CME activity.

CME Oversight of your CME Activity

At least one UTCOM staff member will be considered a complimentary attendee of the activity in order to ensure compliance with the ACCME Essential Areas and Standards for Commercial Support.

Activity Classifications

The UTCOM classifies CME activities in two ways: by sponsorship type by activity type.

  • CME activities can be classified by sponsorship by simply identifying who plans, implements, and evaluates the activity. If a CME activity is planned, implemented & evaluated by the UT College of Medicine (or Erlanger Health System) staff, it is a directly-sponsored activity. If it is planned, implemented & evaluated by another organization, it is a jointly-sponsored activity.
  • CME activities can also be classified by activity type as a 1) single conference, 2) multiple-conference series, 3) regularly-scheduled series (e.g., grand rounds), or 4) enduring material (printed, recorded, or computer-).


Please view our Fee Schedule to view the fees for CME services at the UTCOM. 

May 26, 2022