Tuesday, June 03, 2014

On the ACC's Response to ABIM’s MOC Requirements

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently issued a response to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and American Board of Internal Medicine's (ABIM) recent change to their Maintenance of Certification (MOC) requirements. The ACC's response was based in part on the results of a completed member survey that was distributed through their state chapters in the spring of 2014. The survey was completed within four weeks by over 4,400 members (12 percent of the total solicited). Nearly 90 percent of respondents opposed the changes to the American Board of Medical Specialty (ABMS)/American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM)'s new Maintenance of Certification (MOC) requirements, citing, among multiple concerns, higher than expected costs. Nearly a third of respondents indicated that the changes will affect their future career plans and will likely accelerate career decisions such as early retirement, part-time work, or transition to non-clinical work. Approximately one-quarter of physicians in practice for 15 years or more specified that early retirement was a probable outcome.

If true, the implication of this change to MOC has significant implications for patients everywhere.

This must have prompted the leadership of the ACC to throw their considerable weight into the discussion with the ABIM. In their statement, the ACC promised to:

  • Have "ongoing discussions" with ABIM leadership, in partnership with other cardiovascular professional organizations whose members are similarly affected, to review these issues and to explore changes in MOC requirements that will result in more meaningful outcomes and less onerous burdens for ACC members (Editor's note: To date, MOC has never been shown to alter outcomes, so we are left to wonder what this statement really means.)
  • Request for ACC representation at ABIM to participate in discussions involving MOC, including its educational and financial aspects (Editor's note: What financial aspects might they mean? Does the ACC want in on this cash cow, too? Or might they want to strike a deal offset some of the fees since they want to keep their educational MOC-preparation income stream coming?
  • Review of the evidence base underlying current recommendations (Editor's note: Let me help: there are none. Any positive articles are likely authored by those standing to profit from the endeavor or research paid for by the ABMS. Negative articles are also suppressed from publications sympathetic to the regulatory world. And we should recognize that we have never developed a definition of the "quality" physician. Quality to whom? Is "quality" following rubrics and care pathways? Or might "quality" be something very different, like empathy, listening skills, interpretative skills, or surgical skill? The reality is, if you can't agree on what defines quality, you can't define how to measure it.)
  • Investigation of impact of MOC changes on non-ABIM certified members (Editor's note: I strongly agree with this - it is unethical to impose MOC mandates of any kind without first understanding how they negatively affect doctors, especially if a doctor should not pass and is unable to practice their vocation on the basis of a 180-question timed test)
  • In the interim, ACC will support its membership by:
    • Free provision of web-based MOC modules and navigation tools to ACC members
    • Expansion of Part IV MOC modules through ACC programs such as the NCDR’s inpatient registries and the PINNACLE Registry
    • Creation of mechanisms for ACC members by which patient safety and patient survey requirements can be efficiently fulfilled
    • Bidirectional communication with and engagement of membership through Chapters, Sections and Councils.
    (Editor's note: It's okay to make MORE MOC modules available to us? Is that what doctors want? How many more hours must we spend on this drill and for how much time in lost revenue? "Free" is in the eye of the ACC, not those who have to endure these processes.)

The good news (if there is any with the ACC's announcement), is that front-line doctors are starting to be heard. While the ACC's actions might be a step in the right direction (one can hope), it is disappointing that their statement still sides with the ABIM's requirements for the unproven MOC process in the first place, the busy-work requirement for "Practice Improvement Modules" (especially when quality measures are already required by hospitals), and for permitting a private organization to monopolize the ability of physicians to practice their trade. Furthermore, the ACC's statement does nothing to insist upon changes to the ABIM's non-transparent and self-serving Conflict of Interest policies that keeps conflicts confidential except to certain chosen individuals within the ABIM.

Unless the ACC can convince the ABMS and ABIM to come clean on these important issues, significant physician resistance to this process will remain. Furthermore, the lack of involvement by other subspecialty boards in resisting the ABMS/ABIM's MOC process is concerning. Hopefully, other subspecialty boards will be encouraged by the ACC's example.

After all, cardiologists aren't the only ones frustrated by this change in MOC policy.



Anonymous said...

What is the American Board of Medical Subspecialty? You also mentioned there was sponsored research by this group, could you please post links to the research? thank you

DrWes said...

Anony 07:50 PM -

My bad: should be "American Board of Medical Specialties" (correction made).

Regarding research funded by this group, try this as but one example:


Anonymous said...

It is time to make the ABMS IRRELEVANT. They continue to insist that this whole "scam" is "voluntary " so it is time to say NO! It is also time to go to state medical societies and state and federal legislators to provide laws making this sort of extortion clearly illegal and untenable!

Anonymous said...

ACC leadership to ACC membership: drop dead.

Anonymous said...

Please take a look at the May issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia on this topic: Maintenance of Certification and Licensure: Regulatory Capture of Medicine by Paul Martin Kempen, MD, PhD (note the term “capture” as in “being held hostage”) This is an excellent, thoughtful piece.