ABIM MOC and Recertification May Have No Impact On Patient Quality Care

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
John Hayes, MD

Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Prominent in the discussions about ABIM MOC and recertification has been an ongoing debate about the evidence that supports a relationship between recertification, MOC and patient care. Since many healthcare organizations use board certification as a criteria for employment consideration, the new status of “certified” but not meeting MOC throws considerable disarray into credentialing and hiring committees. We can now have ABIM labeling a physician who boarded eleven years ago as “not certified” but a physician who boarded 25 years ago as “certified” with an asterisk.

And of course discussions like this bring employers and healthcare organizations back to the question: What is the additive value of MOC and recertification on patient care?

The integrated Veterans Health Administration electronic health record generates performance reports for primary care physicians at regular intervals. In our study, we were able to observe for any difference based on certification groups.

We reviewed ten industry-standard quality care measures in approximately 68,000 patients across 4 VA medical centers and found that internists holding time-unlimited certificates performed just as well as those holding time-limited certificates.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: For patients, it may not matter whether your internist’s certificate has expired or if they have not been meeting MOC requirements. ABIM could serve patients, employers and healthcare organizations well by displaying a physician’s full certification history.

For clinicians, our study supports what many have suspected: that a lack of ABIM recertification and MOC participation does not necessarily lead to inferior quality primary care compared to colleagues holding a current ABIM credential.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Although complicated by current ABIM efforts to get all diplomats into the MOC and recertification process, ABIM is actually well positioned to partner with large employers and healthcare organizations to pursue studies that can further answer questions about the relationship between MOC, recertification and patient care quality.

Ultimately it will be patients, employers and healthcare organizations that will have to decide how much value to place on MOC and recertification as they judge internists credentials.


Hayes J, Jackson JL, McNutt GM, Hertz BJ, Ryan JJ, Pawlikowski SA. Association Between Physician Time-Unlimited vs Time-Limited Internal Medicine Board Certification and Ambulatory Patient Care Quality. JAMA. 2014;312(22):2358-2363. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13992.

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Last Updated on December 13, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD