I wasn’t planning to write a blog post about the ACCME’s 2011 Annual Report data, but after reading multiple articles that incorrectly interpreted a key piece of data, I feel the need to comment. I’ll keep it brief.
Last year, I wrote a piece about why I believed it wasn’t wise to compare the ACCME’s 2010 Annual Report data to previous years (see: Stats Don’t Lie…But They May Fib A Little). The same holds true for this year, but there is now an additional consideration when looking at the 2011 data for total commercial support. On page 8 of the report, there is a little footnote you need to be aware of. It reads as follows:
Through 2010, ACCME-accredited and state-accredited providers reported the monetary value of in-kind commercial support they received, and included that amount in their total commercial support numbers. Beginning in 2011, due to a modification in ACCME commercial support reporting requirements, accredited providers no longer included the monetary value of in-kind support and reported only the dollar values for funds actually received. The nature (required) and source (optional) of in-kind commercial support is now reported qualitatively. Examples of in-kind commercial support include equipment, supplies, facilities, and other nonmonetary resources provided by a commercial interest in support of the CME activity.
Simply put, the numbers for the total amount of commercial support are skewed lower in 2011 than they would be under the protocol for reporting the data in 2010 or any other year previous. 2010 includes in-kind contributions; 2011 doesn’t. Now, how much affect did removing in-kind contributions have on lowering the total commercial support numbers? I have no idea. No one does. I would guess that even the ACCME doesn’t have data on the total amount of in-kind contributions in past years (but I don’t know that for certain). Maybe it’s a minor amount. Maybe it’s huge. I couldn’t even begin to guess. But, to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison between the 2011 total commercial support numbers with those from past years – and then declare that there was a dramatic decrease in industry funding of CME – is, to me, a mistake. I’m not comfortable enough with this data to make that bold a declaration, though it may be correct.
Just my 2 cents…