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ABMS to make physician maintenance-of-certification status public

Specialty boards will post the information online by August 2012. Some doctors, however, are watching to see how clearly it is presented.

By Carolyne Krupa — Posted Nov. 14, 2011

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In the last several years, medical specialty boards have implemented maintenance-of-certification requirements to provide ongoing education and assessment of physicians. Now the American Board of Medical Specialties plans to make information about whether individual physicians are meeting those requirements available to the public.

The move coincides with efforts to increase transparency across health care. But some physicians are waiting to see how clearly the ABMS presents the information for public consumption.

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Dr. Stream

"It's certainly consistent with what we are seeing in health care in general," said Glen Stream, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "The real interesting part will be to see how the information is presented, and is it useful for the intended audience."

Starting next year, patients, insurers, credentialing organizations and others will be able to go to an ABMS website to see if a physician is keeping up with maintenance of certification.

The information will be provided in a straightforward format with the physician's name, certifying board and "yes" or "no" to whether the physician is meeting MOC standards, said ABMS President and CEO Kevin B. Weiss, MD, MPH. The website also will provide links to the physician's certifying board or boards.

"ABMS has always made available the knowledge of physicians' certification. Now that physicians are engaged in maintenance of certification, it is a very natural next step for that information to be made available to the public," he said.

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Dr. Weiss

The board launched the MOC initiative in 2000, and each of its 24 member boards had programs in place by 2008, Dr. Weiss said. Some boards already publish physicians' MOC status, but the new effort will provide a central source and uniform reporting format for people seeking that information.

The initiative will begin next year with seven member boards: the American Board of Dermatology, the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Nuclear Medicine, the American Board of Otolaryngology, the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery.

All ABMS member boards are expected to make the information publicly available on the ABMS website by August 2012.

Seeking clarity

The American Board of Pediatrics has posted the MOC status of members on its website since January 2010, said ABP President and CEO James A. Stockman III, MD. Different boards have different MOC standards, so the ABP is waiting for the ABMS to provide clear explanations of those differences before it joins the initiative.

For example, ABP requires its physician members to remain current on certification only in the field in which they practice -- so they may be up to date on their subspecialty certification without having to participate in ABP's MOC program.

"ABMS' website doesn't drill down to those specific details. Ours does," Dr. Stockman said. "We will join as soon as the ABMS can provide transparency about different maintenance-of-certification requirements -- and that will happen."

Dr. Weiss said the ABMS website will provide explanations for those physicians whose boards don't require them to participate in maintenance of certification.

Though it's good to make the information publicly available, it's questionable how many patients will use the website, Dr. Stream said. "It's a fairly rare patient who really deciphers this information," he said.

For those patients who use the site, they will be able to learn if a physician is going through a well-defined professional development process in his or her specialty, Dr. Weiss said.

"The public can be confident that physicians who are meeting the requirements of the ABMS MOC program are committed to lifelong learning and ongoing self-evaluation," he said.

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External links

Physician board certification search, American Board of Medical Specialties (link)

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