To reach an understanding of this issue, I asked a senior member of our staff who has served many policy roles within the leadership of the American College of Physicians, the Illinois Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, and served as a founding fellow of the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), Joseph V. Messer, MD, MACC. Joe is widely respected in the cardiovascular policy circles and has worked extensively on such things as "Appropriateness Use Criteria" and performance measures for cardiology. He carries a unique understanding of the challenges inherent to bureaucratic methods to measure quality care and (importantly) the limitations of creating such systems. Joe is a luminary in many respects and thought hard about the question I posed him. His response was both eloquent and insightful. With his permission, I am publishing his response to me so others might enjoy Joe's perspective on why hospital systems want to "align" with the MOC process. Here is what he wrote:
Wes, your question yesterday at our Cath Conference started me thinking. Since I have decided not to go the MOC route, haven't given it much thought. Here are my ideas:Ugh. Depressing. Sadly, I think he's correct.
Both the Feds and the Hospital Systems prefer a single payer system. Several years ago at an ACC conference, the CMS representative told me their goal was to pour all the money into a single funnel and let healthcare systems worry about the distribution, providing a significant source of "handling" fees for the systems.
CMS and hospital systems seek alignment. The "funnel" analogy is one example. Further, CMS has very limited authority to define and require demonstration of quality from providers. They will encourage the hospital systems to handle this role, and will provide the $$ for same - thus more revenue for hospital systems, not unlike current support for residence and fellow training programs.
As we move toward a single payer system, hospital systems will continue their effort to control physicians - the most important of the distribution recipients in healthcare other than the systems themselves. By ultimate controlling MD's they can take a larger piece of the pie for themselves. Increasingly impotent physicians will have little recourse, since the public consumer now values convenience and low cost over quality.
Supporting MOC assists the hospital systems in controlling MD's. Systems will use public opinion, in part, as a tool in this effort. Hospital systems will vigorously claim that MOC assures higher quality. By requiring and advertising that all system employed MD's are MOC certified the systems will have another weapon against the "private practice" MD, many of whom will not pursue the MOC course, many of whom will be "concierge MD's" and the most vocal opponents of hospital systems.
Ultimately, I believe the hospital systems want to control the certification process. By supporting the MOC initiative they will likely destroy the ABIM as it loses its physician support because of MOC. The specialty societies are lukewarm at best about MOC's and I hear increasing criticism of ABIM for its ulterior financial motivations. Some specialty societies are receiving similar criticism for the fees they charge for educational materials crafted to meet MOC requirements. Thus, ACC and others may well suffer with the ABIM for not vigorously opposed MOC in its current form.
Marginalizing the special societies has already begun. It is very clear that employed cardiologists find less interest in the ACC. The largest grant the ACC has ever received just went to two Chapters - Wisconsin and Florida - to test local, grassroot proposals for health care financing. ($15.8 million over 3 years). National ACC supported this project for a while, but then fell away when the leadership lost interest. My concern here is that the ACC/AHA/STS/HRS/SCAI remain key supporters of quality, appropriate use and performance measurement. If they are significantly weakened by all of these issues - MOC, physician employment, decreased specialty influence in CMS and Congress, the hospital systems will surely move into the vacuum to control education and quality definition to their advantage.
But, when all is said and done, I doubt that the incoming crop of physicians care. In a recent survey (2-3 years ago) the primary motivation of medical school applicants was "job security".
Thanks for your insights, Joe -