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I had to find registration at the Hyatt Regency Chicago: no easy task for someone who's never attended the AMA House of Delegates meeting, but approached what must have been a senior delegate adorned with his AMA badge with multi-colored tags draped some 14" beneath it highlighted by political stickers and little metal badges (I learned later you got some of these after contributing to various political action committees). He was cordial and helped direct me to the subterranean registration desk in the East Tower.
There were delightful ladies more than willing to help. "Are you a delegate?" they asked. "No, just a speaker." They gave me a registration card and I filled it out and was promptly handed a badge of my own with a lonely gray "speaker" badge dangling below.
"Don't listen to a thing he says, he's a doctor," someone said behind me. I turned around to find Charles Kroll, who has also just arrived, waiting to register. I hadn't seen him for two years since we started to work together on the ABIM story. He grabbed his badge and we headed upstairs. I called David Winchester, MD, a delightful young cardiologist that I was introduced to via Twitter (cardiologist and Florida delegate) and he joined me and Mr. Kroll for coffee.
|AMA House of Delegates MOC Meeting|
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As luck would have it just before we began, the projector bulb blew shortly after it was turned on so another projector had to be retrieved. Meanwhile, the videographer had set up and was ready to go, but we had to remain seated as we spoke to use the available microphones. Once the new projector was secured, we were ready to begin.
Mr. Kroll went first (slides at link, video here) and explained his background as a forensic accountant specializing in health care and non-profits to the audience. He began discussing his educational background, credentials, prior experience with other non-profit shenannigans in Minnesota (Alina/Medica scandal) and his experience working with the attorney general there. He then explained how he stumbled across the ABIM story (a former article by Linda Girgis, MD asking if ABIM was "extorting" physicians). He pulled the ABIM's financials and immediately found discrepancies and outlined many of his findings to the audience. You could see heads shaking with disbelief. He kept it simple and understandable. It was devastating. He then told the story how he contacted a mainstream media outlet who requested the last twelve years of audited financials from the ABIM and how the ABIM refused to produce all but the last year, and only if they met in persons to review them together. Evidently, the reporter politely declined and then requested these financials from the PA Attorney's Office (who never responded). Only after a request was made to the press secretary of the PA Governor's office were the last two years' of audited financials produced. Mr. Kroll, who had these full financials in his possession, then noted that when the ABIM published them, they failed to publish six key parts of those financials on its website. Only after he disclosed this fact in an article in MedCityNews, did the ABIM recant and post the full financials. Finally, we concluded with a description of the meeting he help with the Iowa Attorney General's office and the recommendations he made regarding actions the Iowa AG could impose on the ABIM and their Foundation.
I was next.
In my presentation (a rather large Powerpoint presentation can be downloaded here, video here), I discussed my background, the background of how Board certification, how the philosophy of lifetime certification morphed to time-limited based on the ABIM's assertion that older physicians lost their skills over time, but then pointed to the paradox of the "grandfathering" of physicians and the inherent age discrimination against our most vulnerable physicians with that policy change. I also explained patient's definition of the excellent physician vs the ABIM's definition, and reviewed the costs in terms of out-of pocket costs and time involved (detracting from patient care). I also touched on the creation of the ABIM Foundation and the transfer of funds from the ABIM to the Foundation for "research" and showed the webpage asking for physician data for more "research" without informed consent and disclosure to physicians who were serving as study subjects in violation of the Belmont Report. With the purchase of the ABIM condominium, perhaps they were performing investment research instead, I suggested. I then summarized much of what has transpired with the ABIM and asked the important question, "How did it get this way?" and why I thought it happened. Finally, I summarized the disturbing code of silence that has surrounded the ABIM controversy by using the "Little Red Hen" allegory. The only people who will fix this mess is practicing physicians, starting with a full investigation of the responsible parties.
Next up was Bonnie Weiner, MD, board member of the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons (NBPAS.org) who gave an update of their efforts to create a more credible board credential for assuring continuing medical education. She expressed concern that future modifications to MOC will result in making one wasteful test taken once every ten years into many worthless tests over the same time period. She summarized the philosophy and finances of the NBPAS.org and explained that she could no longer serve as an interventional cardiology program director because she refused to perform MOC for that credential. (So much for "voluntary" certification!) She noted over 30 hospitals now accept NBPAS as an alternative to NBPAS.org and emphasized the need to have competition in the credentialing market.
With the last presentation by Scott Shapiro, MD, President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, a shot was fired across the bow of the ABIM. Dr. Shapiro announced that the PA Medical Society was publicly announcing their "vote of no confidence" against the ABIM and approved funds to evaluate legal options against the ABIM:
Today, at the AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago, our Pennsylvania Medical Society Delegation convened a national discussion panel to present their research findings, insights, and recommendations regarding the failures of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the MOC process. The discussion regarding the actions, finances and possible historical motivations for the ABIM actions was eye-opening and alarming.Boom.
Notably, during the conference, we announced that our PAMED Board of Trustees—after reviewing the available data and recent ABIM actions—voted and are now issuing a statement of no confidence in the ABIM's Board and leadership.
We also announced that, earlier this year, our PAMED Board approved the necessary funding to move forward with obtaining a legal opinion into whether PAMED would have standing to file a lawsuit against the ABIM. We hired a firm and recently received their opinion that not only would we have standing but they found potential legal claims consistent with our concerns that could be filed in a lawsuit against the ABIM.
Physician leaders from many other states have inquired about how their state can join PAMED's efforts. We look forward to these and other strategic conversations in the near future.
You could have heard a pin drop.
After his announcements (and I probably missed a few key words), the floor was open for question and answer. Lots of people asked questions respectfully. Many were in support. Some were disappointed that there was not a more broad perspective of the opposite arguments for MOC on the panel. One physician with lots of tags on his chest approach the microphone saying," I learned a lot today in this session. Most of all I learned that I'm really glad I never became an internist." (He was an anesthesiologist). The room burst into laughter. He then went on to express his like of anesthesia's "MOCA minute" initiative but never disclosed if he had conflicts with the program or how much it cost. (By now, Dr. Nora from the ABMS had joined the question and answer line.)
It had to be difficult for Dr. Nora to enter this room, but I respected the fact that she came to the microphone to point out her views. Unfortunately, rather than mentioning anything about the corruption we had just uncovered, Dr. Nora seemed upset that I had been inaccurate with my portrayal of where the ABMS gets their money (I am paraphrasing here). She also commented that we have been given a privilege to self-regulate and that we should consider carefully what we are doing. I then asked her a question as she walked away. She turned to answer. My question was this: "Have you ever studied what happens the physicians that you fail and what happens to their patients in turn?" She stated she didn't "understand" my question and then proceeded to redirect to another topic before turning to walk away. Perhaps there will be an audio feed soon of this interaction. It wasn't one of our chief regulator's best moments.
Other questions kept coming, with many shifting to "what's next?" Unfortunately the session went 30 minutes over and another meeting needed the room.
Finally, it was over.
I would like to take this moment to thank Charles Cutler, MD of the Pennsylvania Medical Society for his invitation to speak in this important venue. I am glad I could meet the players in this saga firsthand. There's no excuse for delaying any longer. Everyone knows the problems. Illegal stuff has occurred.
I can only hope those responsible take meaningful and serious steps to resolve the financial malfeasance, corruption, cronyism, and lack of accountability that has been ongoing at the ABIM (and other affiliated member boards of the ABMS hierarchy) for so long. Otherwise, it's going to get very ugly very quickly.
Practicing physicians across the US have had enough of the ABMS MOC requirement shenanigans.
|AHA House of Delegates MOC Session Speakers, June 13, 2016|
(L to R: Scott Shapiro, MD, Bonnie Weiner, MD, Charles Cutler, MD,
Wes Fisher, MD, and Mr. Charles P. Kroll)
P.S.: I will post a link to the videos of the sessions as soon as they become available. (Update: links added where appropriate above)