announcement between medical specialty societies and the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) was made recently changing the American Board of Medical Specialty's (ABMS) trademarked Maintenance of Certification® program requirements (again) for select subspecialties in Internal Medicine. "Unanimously passed" by a group of well-meaning physicians in a new creation within the ABIM called the ABIM Council, diplomats in nine subspecialty areas of internal medicine will no longer need to maintain underlying certifications in those areas as of 1 January 2016.
Unfortunately, you can't put lipstick on a pig.
The regulatory world of medicine has become a self-reinforcing, patronage system consisting of multiple non-profits and regulatory professional organizations. When fifteen professional societies collaborate with the ABIM to spit out a sacrificial lamb in an apparent act of appeasement, practicing US physicians are supposed to relax, shake hands and move on. Appeasement is not transparency. Minimal change is not profound reform.
This testing issue is just the tip of the iceberg in the exploitation of practicing physicians. The ABMS MOC® program is a complicated, intricate physician re-certification scheme that appears to be little more than a special interest employment bureau happy to shower itself with creature comforts and benefits at the expense of those who do the dirty work of patient care. As such, the MOC® program has created a corrosive divide within our profession that has even gained notoriety in the New England Journal of Medicine. It also now regulates the employability of an increasing number of physicians. The ABMS and American Hospital Association, both part of the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), have required this unproven MOC® metric for hospital credentialing of physicians dependent on employment by those hospitals. The program has become so embedded in the medical regulatory culture that it's even found its way into our new health care reform law. When examined on this scale, removing a requirement for taking two MOC® re-certification examinations instead of taking just one seems aimed at deflecting further scrutiny.
Practicing physicians need to remember that there is much more to the MOC® program than computerized educational modules, secure examinations and paying fees. The program affects physicians' ability to practice their trade and leaves physicians at risk of sanctions for revealing trade secrets of the ABMS and ABIM. Until the anti-trust suit against the ABMS and ABIM is resolved and the IRS fully investigates the fraudulent reporting of the origination date and domicile of the ABIM reported on tax forms, subspecialty organizations should not require re-certification programs created by the ABMS or ABIM. Are we holding our specialty societies to this standard?
Otherwise, they're wearing lipstick, too.