In its ongoing suit claiming copyright infringement against a Puerto Rican physician, American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) lawyers of Ballard Spahr were slapped with a Motion to Dismiss on 11 March 2016 for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and for filing their suit well outside the 3-year statute of limitation for the alleged copyright infringement. The details of the motion can be reviewed at the link provided.
In turn, lawyers for the ABIM have filed a request for an extension on 12 March 2016 to file their response. The details of their response will be interesting to review, especially since practicing US physicians are witnessing first-hand how the ABIM, once little more than a testing agency, exploited the learned helplessness of physicians accustomed to years of regulatory Stockholm Syndrome to take advantage of fellow colleagues for personal and political gain.
Thanks to the Penn State mentality inherent to group-think corporate medicine, it now appears the ABIM plotted a strategy using intimidating strongman search and seizure tactics to invade at least one physician's home to obtain "2,000 emails and audio and other communications from physicians disclosing exam questions." Officers of the ABIM unilaterally justified the sanctioning of 139 physicians and the distribution of heavy-handed and psychologically irresponsible letters of reprimand to thousands more as "a message and a deterrent" while pocketing millions for themselves and their corporate clients.
But questions remain and loom larger now. What were the terms of the deal cut between Dr. Arora and the ABIM? Why won't the ABIM release this settlement agreement to the defendant? What personnel and methods were used to track down the Puerto Rican physician via his email communications some five years later? Why were records shredded? Why were physician attendees at the Arora course targeting when similar ACP-sponsored courses and course directors do not undergo similar scrutiny? None of these specifics were aired in the public ABIM press release about the incident.
Until these are explained and justified, I believe all US physicians should refuse to participate in Maintenance of Certification (MOC) until a full investigation and accounting of the ABIM's actions and financial conflicts takes place. Members of hospital medical boards and Medical Executive Committees should insist these questions are answered by the ABIM. After all, hospitals and insurers need practicing physicians focused on patient care more than they need the ABIM, ABMS, or its member boards insisting we take strong-armed tests for their political and personal gain.
To me, it increasingly appears legal challenges are mounting for the ABIM, the ABMS, and their officers as this story unfolds. As a result, I suspect there will be a pivot away from the ABIM/ABMS MOC product by the medical establishment to the new Medicare Physician Payment scheme, MACRA. But MACRA contains parts of the ABMS MOC program with its untested "performance improvement" quality metrics and patient-survey directed care that repeats a similar theme: data-gathering to pad corporate bottom lines with expensive, time-consuming, and unnecessary metrics that add little to no value to direct patient care and, instead, adds costs and detracts further from much-needed patient care.
It is time to learn the whole truth behind MOC, not just for physicians' benefit, but for our patients, too.