Earlier this year, leaders in optometric continuing education formed a steering committee to draft a set of guidelines for maintaining the integrity of accredited optometric CE and for avoiding commercial bias from industry sponsors. The steering committee has now released a draft of the guidelines, and its looking for your input.

Optometrys Guidelines for Independent Continuing Education (ICE) are meant to help doctors, meeting planners and industry supporters alike create and administer quality educational programs in an era of increasing scrutiny, writes the National Steering Committee on Optometric Guidelines for Educational Support in its introduction to the guidelines.

The committee consists of representatives from SECO International, the American Academy of Optometry, the American Optometric Association, the Association of Regulatory Boards in Optometry, the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, and several eye-care companies.

Key points of the guidelines:

Industry support for CE should be in the form of educational grants. Educational grants should not come with strings attached for the choice of the speaker or course content.

All educational grants must be disclosed to the audience by the CE administrator.

Speakers must be paid by the CE administrator onlynever by the industry supporter.

The speakers presentation slides or handouts cannot contain any company advertising or blatant promotional messages.

Speakers must disclose to the audience all relevant financial relationships and display this on the opening slide of their presentations.

Financial support from industry is essential for optometric continuing education. Frankly, we cant do without it, says Paul C. Ajamian, O.D., chair of the guideline steering committee as well as general chairman of the CE Committee for SECO International. On the other hand, any commercial bias or perceived bias undermines the integrity of the education.

These guidelines follow in the footsteps of other voluntary CE guidelines recently developed by M.D.s and the pharmaceutical industrybut these are specific to optometry, Dr. Ajamian says.

The guidelines were written to maintain balanced continuing education presentations that are not skewed toward a particular company, especially if that company is supporting that particular educational event, Dr. Ajamian says. Audiences also deserve to know who a speaker works for or speaks for. So, the guidelines ask speakers to disclose this information at the beginning of every talk.

Download the draft of the guidelines at www.secointernational.com/ICE. Send your comments to optometryonice@aol.com with the subject line, Optometric Guidelines for Independent Continuing Education. Be sure to include your name, e-mail address and phone number.

Vol. No: 146:05Issue: 5/15/2009