Board-certified physicians are getting another extension on the deadline to maintain their internal medicine credentials.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) once again extended the Maintenace of Certification (MOC) requirements through December 2022.
Last spring, ABIM made a similar decision for 2021.
ABIM says that all diplomates whose certificate expired in 2020 or 2021 will now have until the end of 2022 to fulfill the requirements. The decision to extend the deadline means that board-certified physicians will not lose certification if they aren’t able to complete any MOC requirement this year, the organization said in a blog post.
"We know internists and internal medicine subspecialists have been on the front lines meeting the country’s needs, many experiencing the tragedy of COVID in deeply personal ways," the ABIM board of directors wrote. "The ABIM board is a diverse set of clinicians practicing in a variety of settings, and just like you, has experienced directly the unprecedented clinical demands posed by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic."
ABIM decided to extend the requirement deadlines in recognition of the disruption and urgent clinical responsibilities physicians have lived through during the pandemic.
Knowing that the effects of the pandemic have not been evenly distributed and that some physicians may elect to take an exam in 2021, ABIM will continue to offer all exams this year as scheduled, the organization said.
"The amount of time physicians have had to pay attention to COVID-19 and it’s impact on their professional lives, and also their personal lives, led to this decision," Marianne Green, M.D., chair of ABIM's board of directors, told Fierce Healthcare.
While physicians have been keeping up with the rapidly emerging science and evidence on how to treat COVID-19, they may not have had the time to adequately prepare for an ABIM assessment the way they would in a normal year.
"We also recognize the high levels of stress you may have faced over the last 12 months, and that it will likely be some time until it subsides. We hope this gives you one less thing to worry about," ABIM said in the blog post.
Many physicians may not feel safe traveling to an on-site testing center during the pandemic, Green said, and the ABIM board also decided that remote testing was not a good option at this time.
"We recognize that prepping for an assessment right now is burdensome to our physicians. Given the very unique circumstances of this pandemic, we felt that it wasn’t just about having a safe testing environment, but it's also about allowing physicians to put their attention where it's critically needed in this unprecedented year," she said.
Physicians working on the front lines of the pandemic, including hospitalists, infectious disease specialists, and primary care doctors, are now seeing a surge in patient volume due to deferred care last year.
"We're hoping this decision conveys to our diplomate community that most of us on the board are practicing physicians like you, and we have seen the impact on our personal and professional lives," Green said. "To our physicians, we are reiterating, 'We hear you. We know what we’re going through, and we're hopeful that this will take a little pressure off of you.'"
In January 2022, ABIM will launch a new longitudinal knowledge assessment, a more flexible and convenient way to maintain certification. Physicians who decide to delay their 2021 assessment will be able to enroll in the longitudinal assessment when it rolls out (pending availability), or can choose to take the traditional, 10-year MOC exam if they prefer, ABIM said.