Saturday, February 08, 2020

MOC's Sword of Damocles and the Platinum Rule

The current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings has an article entitled "Maintenance of Certification and the Platinum Rule: An Existential Crisis" by Richard G. Ellenbogen, MD, E. Sander Connolly Jr, MD, and Fredric B. Meyer, MD. I encourage all to read it and the accompanying editorial by Suzanne M. Norby, MD from the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension and Mayo Clinic.

It is clear that MOC has morphed into a money-making endeavor for legions of third parties, including insurance companies, hospitals, and a myriad of other corporate interests eager to capitalize on the control and sharing of physician data. While the concept of using the "Platinum Rule" to guide the evolution of MOC is a step in the right direction, the "MOC existential crisis" will not end until the "Sword of Damocles" (as the authors aptly put it) is removed from working physicians' heads. We simply cannot work with the threat of the loss of our professional careers if we fail to purchase the unproven MOC (and any other required "continuous certification" product).

The ABMS MOC paradigm will only survive if becomes truly voluntary and its lack of purchase will not affect our right to earn a living.

-Wes

P.S. (Updated 9 Feb 2020 @ 13:45PM CST) As we have seen time and time again, the physician influencers and apologists of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) have historically abandoned their moral imperative to working physicians and their patients to “first, do no harm.” Corporate interests invariably supersede this ethic. It should come as no surprise, then, that the lead author of this piece has a similar track record working for the National Football League.

Physicians wishing to support the plaintiffs in their ongoing effort to end Maintenance of Certification are encouraged to contribute here.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

PA Medical Society and MOC

Are medical societies advocating to end the unproven American Board of Medical Specialties' Maintenance of Certification (MOC) mandate or are they burying the controversy?

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMed) issued a strongly-worded "Vote of No Confidence" against the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

Good luck finding that earlier statement on PAMed's webpage concerning MOC now.

Instead, we see the following soothing pablum regarding PAMed's MOC position:
PAMED Position

Supports efforts to:
  • Improve MOC
  • Prohibit MOC as a condition of licensure, insurer credentialing and reimbursement, or hospital admitting privileges
The accusations in PAMed's original 2016 Vote of No Confidence against the ABIM were significant:
" Through their marketing efforts, the ABIM has worked hard to give the impression that their recertification exam demonstrates competency. However, despite numerous calls to substantiate this assertion, the ABIM has been unable to provide reliable independent evidence that a secure, high-stakes exam, taken every 10 years by some and for which other are "grandfathered" and therefore exempt - leads to better patient care. This is because while the overwhelming majority of practicing physicians pass the ABIM recertification secure, high-stakes computer exams, this test and the MOC process have no correlation to how well a doctor can take care of a patient. Shockingly, countless medical leaders. numerous national mainstream publications, and several forensic accounting reviews have published information which suggests the ABIM's motivation for their recertification process was primarily driven by little more than financial mismanagement."
In 2017, a resolution was passed by the AMA House of Delegates demanding an independent audit of the ABIM. This lead to the following response from the ABIM to James Madara, MD, President of the AMA. In that response by the ABIM, the American College of Cardiology was quoted as vouching for the ABIM's financial statements because of this statement issued to their membership:
In addition, the ACC's accounting staff have reviewed and discussed the ABIM’s publicly available financial statements with an outside accounting firm and have found the statements to be in compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, as utilized by not-for-profit organizations in the United States.
The problem is, the AMA and the ACC have interests in selling physician data and each organization has representatives on the board of PCPI.org alongside representatives from UnitedHealthcare. PCPI and the ABMS share the same office address. Therefore, the financial "audit" demanded by the AMA House of Delegates in 2017 and accepted by the AMA's President Madara was never "independent."

Pennsylvania physicians represented by PAMed need to confront their medical society's current leadership concerning MOC and the lack of independent financial audit demanded by the AMA House of Delegates. One thing working physicians in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) don't need: corporate physician shills more interested in themselves and their political aspirations than the support of front-line physicians who care for their citizens.

-Wes

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Certified Deceit and Exploitation of US Physicians

For the past seven years, I have devoted a significant amount of my time to investigating and telling the true story of US physician "board certification." That story has been one of deceit, private back-room deals, profiteering, and (worst of all in my humble opinion), the exploitation of working physicians and the patients for whom they care.

This writing has not come without its personal and professional costs, but when the story is one that affects the corruption of the largest single contributor to the US economy, what else should I have expected?

As I reflect on what this side job has exposed, it would be naive and dishonest to suggest that physicians are exempt from bearing some responsibility for rising healthcare costs in America. But it may go much further than that: our medical profession and its hallowed physician education regulatory system comprised of the unchecked Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) might be the very reason things were allowed to become so out of control. Our non-profit tax laws with their opaque reporting requirements have allowed huge "non-profits" to go unchecked in America - and most of those "non-profits" are in healthcare. (Just take a stroll by the American Medical Association (AMA) building in downtown Chicago sometime to get a feel for the magnitude of the problem.)

Why should the physician education and credentialing systems in America be exempt from such corruption?

Well, they are not.

From the earliest reports of a multi-million dollar condominium purchase by the same non-profit organization that created the "Choosing Wisely®" campaign to promote health care cost savings, the hypocrisy of US board certification was laid bare. With not-so-difficult internet Google searches, it was just a matter of time before the multiple deep-pocketed corporate ties between US physician board certification and Big Tobacco, Big Insurance, Group Purchase Organizations, and the Health Care Quality and Safety Industry became evident. Even our most widely respected health care journals, many of which were owned by state medical societies or physician specialty societies, published innumerable articles with an editorial blind eye to these financial conflicts. Even the Chief Medical Officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine is just a hired corporate consultant. To that end, is it any wonder that the so-called "voluntary" ABMS board certification product is now anything but voluntary for physicians, as trillions of health care dollars exchange hands in hospitals and insurance companies whose corporations believed the published propaganda?

This is why the "Maintenance of Certification" (MOC) story must be told and understood. Continuing the cover-up only serves to fan the flames of physician burnout and risks loss of more frontline highly-trained physicians to other professions.

Thankfully, the true history of AMBS board certification was recently published online. But it was not published in a medical journal. It was published in the public Siva v. American Board of Radiology antitrust lawsuit case docket.

And what a complicated and tortuous story it tells.

It is a story of public deception.

It is a story of physician exploitation.

It is a story of greed.

It is a story of trying to use Maintenance of Certification to control state's sovereignty over medical licensure.

It is a story of money for bureaucrats, hospitals, and numerous corporate interests at the expense of the youngest and most vulnerable physicians.

It is a story of a sophisticated self-serving physician education and credentialing racket.

And now, you can read the 79-page story here.

Let's hope Judge Jorge Alonso (who initially dismissed the case against the American Board of Radiology) reads it, too.

-Wes

P.S.: Please consider supporting the Plaintiffs in their ongoing David vs Goliath MOC legal battles.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Who Is the ABIM Chief Medical Officer?

Drs. Richard G. Battaglia and Richard Baron
(Image from the ABIM Blog)
Who is Richard G. Battaglia, MD?

In 2015, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) announced Richard G. Battalgia, MD as their new Chief Medical Officer (CMO). This was the same year the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) paid $922,479 to PriceWaterhouseCooper LLP (PwC) for "Management Consulting:"
What the ABIM website fails to mention with their announcement, is that Mr. Battaglia worked for PwC for 14 years, 3 months before being "hired" by the ABIM.

Is Dr. Battaglia, the ABIM CMO, concerned about medical education of physicians or merely a consultant purchased by the American Board of Medical Specialties to "clean up" the ABIM Maintenance of Certification (MOC) mess?

The ABIM website only says this about their CMO:
"Dr. Battaglia, a board certified internist, is Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). There, he leads ABIM's effort to incorporate feedback from practicing physicians and key stakeholders into clinical aspects of all of ABIM activities, including Certification and Maintenance of Certification (MOC).

Previously, Dr. Battaglia served as a primary care internist with Health Care Plan/Univera, a multi-specialty, staff model practice in Western New York before transitioning into leadership roles, including Medical Director of the Medical Centers Division and Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs/Corporate Medical Director. He also served as Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of large multispecialty medical groups in Western New York. He has participated in national quality initiatives focused on physician group practice and health maintenance organizations. For more than 10 years, he devoted time to The National Committee for Quality Assurance, including a term as Chairman of the committee charged with accreditation decision-making. Most recently, he was a consultant (emphasis mine) for national and international organizations, including academic medical centers, health systems, community hospitals, medical groups, payers and national physician certification organizations.

Dr. Battaglia received a biochemistry degree from Canisius College, a Jesuit institution in Buffalo, NY. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Dr. Battaglia completed his residency through the University of Rochester Primary Care Program in Internal Medicine and also served as Chief Resident."
Maybe PwC's "Unifying Thread" of using (physician) data is the real reason Dr. Battalia promotes "continuous certification" and MOC:
Data is the unifying thread across seven policy areas we highlight here. Privacy, antitrust, tax, regulation of artificial intelligence, and trade are converging around the collection, sharing and security of data.
Physicians subjected to lifelong payments to ABMS member boards for Maintenance of Certification (MOC) and Continuous Certification (CC) should know about Mr. Dr. Battaglia's PwC connection. Just like they should have known about Christine Cassel, MD's connections to Premier, Inc, Kaiser, and CECity, and Dr. Wachter's connections to the The Hospitalist Company and Teamhealth.

When considering patient safety and care quality, a corporate, non-clinical, damage-control medical consultant for a Fortune 500 accounting firm should not be Chief Medical Officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

-Wes

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Visible Cracks

it was a clinic day like all the rest
until it wasn't
she was there with her son and granddaughter
winded
legs swollen "for a month"
afib, fast rate despite cardizem CD 300 mg daily, diabetic meds, norvasc.
EKG with LVH, RBBB, LAFB.
BP 178/84, HR 124
rales
meds to be started, but help?
EMR->no doctor
a nurse practitioner?
4:45 pm-> all gone
see you in two days
no appointments.

i wake too early
staring up
mind swirling
cases ahead
remembering her
and me
alone.

-Wes

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Study We Weren't Supposed to See

Most US physicians are well-acquainted with the American Board if Internal Medicine's (ABIM) breathless claims of ABIM board certification and Maintenance of Certification's benefits. These have included:
  • The Public Expects It
  • Physicians Value It
  • Amount of clinical experience does not necessarily lead to better outcomes or improvement of skills
  • Certification is Associated with Better Care
But what about the harms of constant testing and its affects on physician burnout? Wouldn't it important for the ABIM to mention that their OWN study on 34 subjects, funded by US physician testing fees in the form of grants from the ABIM Foundation and authored (in part) by ABIM staff and consultants, has found that Certification and MOC:
  • "lead to higher measures of depersonalization and emotional exhaustion."
  • "may be an important source of medical errors related to clinical reasoning tasks in practice."
  • yet are considered the "Gold Standard of physician performance."

These are their words, not mine.

Where are these results published on the ABIM or ABIM Foundation website?

Shouldn't U.S. physicians who paid for such poorly conducted/self-promotional "research" be entitled to disclosure of (1) how much granbt money was paid to USUHS, (2) why the funding agency was allowed authorship of this "research," and (3) why the data contained in this work were not disclosed to ABIM diplomates on the ABIM website?

-Wes

Please contribute to help support the legal effort to end Maintenance of Certification nationwide.