American Board of Medical Specialties plans to reevaluate contentious MOC

Medical education
ABMI president Richard J. Baron says physicians get good value from MOC.

As the American Board of Medical Specialties faces a backlash from physicians over its tougher requirements and costs of maintenance of certification, the president of one of its member boards Richard J. Baron, M.D., defends that process but says changes are in the works.

Maintaining board certification is worth the time and money for physicians, says Baron, of the American Board of Internal Medicine, in an interview with MedPageToday, as he also defended his organization's finances.

“We're figuring out what is the best way to recognize and reward and acknowledge special expertise that doctors have, do it in a way that it results in a credible credential that adds value to their professional ability to do what they do,” Baron told the publication. ABIM is one of the 24 medical specialty boards that make up the ABMS and work together to establish common standards for physicians to achieve and maintain board certification. 

The ABMS and those member boards, which represent various specialties, last week announced it will establish a commission that will include multiple partners to reevaluate the MOC system. The goal is to create a system of continuing board certification that “is meaningful, relevant and of value,” while meeting the demand of patients, hospitals and others who expect physicians to maintain their knowledge and skills to provide quality care, the group said.

That review will begin with an assessment of the current system and will include hearings as the commission seeks feedback before coming up with final recommendations to ABMS and its member boards, according to the announcement. The process will take about 12 to 15 months.

RELATED: Doctors unified in their fight over Maintenance of Certification

ABIM has already backed off on some of its requirements. In reaction to physician pushback, the ABIM in February 2015 dropped its stipulation that doctors engage in practice improvement activities as a requirement to be certified, acknowledging it had gone too far, Baron said.

Doctors who have long been irked by the fees they have to pay for certification exams and an analysis released in August in JAMA suggested medical specialty boards are profiting by charging those high fees. Many doctors resent the substantial costs for both board certification and MOC and the research letter said ABMS’ member boards have increased their financial margins by charging doctors those exam fees.

However, Baron told MedPage Today that the cost of just under $2,000 to maintain certification covers a 10-year period and breaks down to less than $200 a year. And there’s evidence that board-certified physicians earn more money than those not certified, he said. Furthermore, he said, the ABMI finances are posted on the organization website in full transparency.