New standard unifies ethical expectations for physician continuing professional development in Canada

OTTAWA, March 1, 2016 /CNW/ - The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College), the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Collège des médecins du Québec (CMQ) have jointly released a national standard for the development and delivery of accredited continuing professional development (CPD) activities for physicians in Canada.

The National Standard for Support of Accredited CPD Activities describes a set of ethical standards and expectations relating to sponsorship support that physician learning activities must meet in order to be accredited.

It is the result of many consultations with 47 organizations. These include private industry, universities, national and provincial medical organizations, and organizations that develop and deliver physician continuing professional development or CPD.

It reflects the Canadian Medical Association's policy called Guidelines for Physicians in Interactions with Industry as well as the Code of Ethics of the CQDPCM (Conseil québécois de développement professionnel continu des médecins), an ethical framework for CPD activities already in place in Quebec.

Accreditation is an "educational stamp-of-approval." It assures physicians that the learning they are about to undertake is based on the needs of the profession and meets certain standards of educational quality.

In order to maintain a license to practice, Canadian physicians are required to participate in CPD activities designed to address their needs and enhance their practice every year. They must complete and report on a certain number of credits of continuing professional development. For example, many attend conferences to meet this need.

The National Standard addresses previous concerns regarding private sector influence on accredited learning activities. Before now, the ethical standards for accredited learning activities varied significantly across Canada.

"For the first time in Canada, there is now a single unified standard of ethics across both family physician and specialist physician audiences," said CFPC Executive Director and CEO, Francine Lemire, MD CM, CCFP, FCFP, CAE. "These standards will establish a clearly defined role for private-sector sponsors so that organizations can deliver high-quality learning activities to our current and future doctors."

The National Standard will ensure that high standards of quality and accountability are respected, while keeping accredited learning activities as free as possible from bias and influence.

For example, planning committee members and speakers at accredited learning events will be required to disclose all potential conflicts of interest over the previous two years to participants.

As well, sponsor representatives will not be allowed to sit on the scientific planning committees that control the content of accredited learning events.

"As a self-regulated profession, we have an ongoing obligation to the public to put supports in place that encourage our doctors to remain competent, informed and unbiased," said Royal College CEO Andrew Padmos, MD, FRCPC, FACP. "In applying the same ethical standards of quality to the continuing education of family doctors and specialists, we're contributing to the quality of care received by Canadian patients across the board."

Recognizing this is a big change for organizations, there will be a two-year transition phase to allow them to align to the new standard, which will officially launch on January 1, 2018.

Accredited learning activities held in Quebec will need to comply with Quebec's own Code of Ethics, however the limitations on industry involvement are the same for both.

"If an activity does not meet the educational and ethical standards of either the National Standard, the Code of Ethics of the CQDPCM or the Code of ethics of physicians of Quebec, the event is not accredited" said Charles Bernard, MD, President and CEO of the Collège des médecins du Québec.

In this way the National Standard will ensure that professional development activities are always based on the real needs of doctors and their patients.

The National Standard is accessible on the Royal College's website at


SOURCE Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Image with caption: "New standard unifies ethical expectations for physician continuing professional development in Canada (CNW Group/Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada)". Image available at:

For further information: Media enquiries, Roxanne Deevey, Director, Communications & Marketing, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Tel: 613-730-8177 ext. 539, Cell: 613-797-4198,; Jayne Johnston, Director, Communications, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Tel: 905-629-0900 ext. 303,; Caroline Langis, Press relations officer, Collège des médecins du Québec, Tel: 514-933-4179,


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