Physician MOC Status Linked To Better Diabetes Performance Measure Interview with:
Bradley Gray, PhD
Senior Health Services Researcher
American Board of Internal Medicine What is the background for this study?

Response: This study is part of an ongoing effort to improve and validate ABIM’s MOC process through the use of real data that is ongoing here at ABIM. What are the main findings? 

Response: The paper examines the association between MOC status and a set of HEDIS process quality measures for internists twenty years past the time they initially certified. An example of one HEDIS performance measure we looked at was percentage of patients with diabetes that had twice annual HbA1c testing. The key findings of the paper are that physicians who maintained their certification had better scores on 5 of 6 HEDIS performance measures than similar physicians who did not maintain their certification.

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Physicians Passage of MOC Exam Linked to Fewer State Disciplinary Actions Interview with:

Dr. Furman S. McDonald MD MPH Lead author of the research and  Senior Vice President for Academic and Medical Affairs American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM)

Dr. McDonald

Dr. Furman S. McDonald MD MPH
Lead author of the research and
Senior Vice President for Academic and Medical Affairs
American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain how the MOC examination works?

Response: To earn Board Certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), doctors take an exam after completing a medical education training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to demonstrate they have the knowledge to practice in a specialty. Previously, ABIM conducted research that showed that physicians who passed a certification exam were five times less likely to be disciplined by a state licensing board than those who do not become certified.

After becoming board certified, physicians can participate in ABIM’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, which involves periodic assessments and learning activities to support doctors in staying current with medical knowledge through their careers. ABIM has been in conversations across the medical community and many people have expressed interest in whether performance on the MOC exams doctors take is also associated with important outcomes relevant to patients.

For this study, my ABIM colleagues and I studied whether there was any association between Internal Medicine MOC exam performance and disciplinary actions by state licensing boards. We studied MOC exam results and any reported disciplinary actions for nearly 48,000 general internists who initially certified between 1990 and 2003.  Continue reading

Physician Maintenance of Certification Linked to Decreased Health Care Costs

Bradley M. Gray, PhD American Board of Internal Interview with:
Bradley M. Gray, PhD
American Board of Internal Medicine

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

Dr. Gray: The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) is committed to evaluating the impact its physician certification programs, including Maintenance of Certification (MOC). That motivated us to investigate the relationship between the MOC requirement and the practice patterns of internists subject to it.

We looked to see whether the original MOC requirement was associated with health care costs and measures of hospitalizations drawn from Medicare claims. Our primary measure of hospitalizations was Prevention Quality Indicators, which were developed by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality to measure impacts of primary care. These include such things as hospitalizations for an amputation due to diabetic complications. Our health care cost measure included outpatient and inpatient costs.

To examine these associations, we took advantage of a natural experiment that occurred when one group of general internists who originally certified in 1991 were subject to the MOC requirement by 2001, while another group of internists, who originally certified just two years earlier in 1989, were grandfathered out of this requirement.

In essence we can think of the 1991 required group of internists as a group treated by the effects of MOC and the 1989 grandfathered group as a control group in a natural experiment.

We estimated associations with this requirement by comparing outcomes among Medicare beneficiaries treated by the required group of internists before and after the requirement took effect in 2001.

Also before and after the 2001 requirement, we compared this difference to a similar difference in outcomes for a control group of beneficiaries treated by the grandfathered group of internists. At base line before 2001, these beneficiaries had almost identical characteristics and co-morbidities as the beneficiaries treated by the required group of internists.

We did this to account for the natural increase in hospitalizations and health care costs that occur as beneficiaries age, as well as other important factors that might have been coincident with the MOC requirement.

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

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