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SHM SPARK Helps Bridge Gap for Hospitalist MOC Exam Prep


SHM recently introduced SHM SPARK, the only maintenance of certification (MOC) exam-preparation tool by hospitalists for hospitalists. It complements tools already on the market to help hospitalists succeed on the Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine (FPHM) exam.

SHM SPARK delivers 175 vignette-style, multiple-choice questions that bridge the primary knowledge gaps found within existing MOC exam-preparation products. It offers up to 10.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits of CME. Content areas covered include:

  • Palliative care, ethics, and decision making
  • Patient safety
  • Perioperative care and consultative co-management
  • Quality, cost, and clinical reasoning

The Hospitalist recently spoke with three SHM SPARK users about its impact on their exam-preparation efforts: Louis O’Boyle, DO, SFHM, CLHM, medical director of Advanced Inpatient Medicine, a hospitalist management company in Lakeville, Pa.; Timothy Crone, MD, SFHM, medical director of Enterprise Intelligence and Analytics and former vice-chairman of the Department of Hospital Medicine at Cleveland Clinic; and Aroop Pal, MD, FHM, hospitalist, associate professor, and program director of transitions of care services at University of Kansas Medical Center.

Question: Why did you choose to purchase SHM SPARK?

Dr. O’Boyle: I was expecting the FPHM exam to be more challenging than the traditional exam, so I wanted to get as much help as possible, particularly in those areas that are less utilized in day-to-day hospitalist practice. This exam covered the 40% or so that is not covered in a typical review course.

Dr. Crone: I was selected to receive SHM SPARK as a test user, but had I not been, I probably would have purchased it as there was not another single tool that addressed the content gap preparing for the exam that SHM SPARK did. On HMX and in conversations with other hospitalists, I was aware of “collections” of tools, like books and websites, that people had put together to review information not covered in MKSAP or other standard test-prep materials. SHM SPARK brought that content together in a single space, which allowed me to take a systematic approach to reviewing the content areas covered as opposed to a potentially incomplete, piecemeal approach.

Dr. Pal: There are no board review products focused on the 40% of the FPHM exam not based on traditional clinical knowledge. Thus, it made sense to give SHM SPARK a try, especially since it was affordable for members.

Q: During your preparation, what was the most useful aspect of SHM SPARK?

Dr. Crone: I find that working through computer-based questions similar in format to the actual exam is most helpful to me. Both in terms of knowledge acquisition and comfort level with the exam itself, the “context-dependent learning” aspect is important for me. SHM SPARK allowed me to work through its content areas in that way and also helped me identify and correct gaps in my knowledge as opposed to guessing what was important and searching for source material on my own.

Dr. Pal: SHM SPARK helped frame how quality and patient safety questions would or could be posed on the FPHM exam. This made it helpful to determine what content is fair game for the exam and the key competencies ABIM was focusing on—especially since traditional board review materials do not cover as much quality-specific content.

Dr. O’Boyle: The most useful aspects were the topics that are not encountered specifically in everyday practice, such as the sections on quality, cost, and clinical reasoning, as well as patient safety.

Q: After taking the exam, in retrospect, how effective was SHM SPARK in preparing you?

Dr. Pal: SHM SPARK was valuable to me and worth the time and effort. The board exam itself is a little bit of a blur; if nothing else, it helped me identify areas that I needed more information on and reinforced some knowledge I had prior to taking the exam.

Dr. O’Boyle: The SHM SPARK review absolutely helped me perform well on the sections that were covered. I think it is almost essential to prepare for the Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine exam.

Dr. Crone: I passed, so I’d label that effective! In some cases, using SHM SPARK, I scored 90% or better on a first pass on questions with no review; that has not been my experience with MKSAP or Med Study questions. The only recommendation I would have is to make some of the questions a bit more rigorous. However, SHM SPARK clearly met a need nothing else did.

Q: If you were to tell a fellow hospitalist one thing about SHM SPARK, what would it be?

Dr. O’Boyle: I encourage everyone to purchase it. It is an excellent resource guide. The way the exam is currently designed, you may need the additional 40% of exam content covered by SHM SPARK in order to pass. By that, I mean that some of the medical questions were so complicated and cumbersome that they were at the specialist level and not at all representative of what a typical hospitalist routinely encounters, in my opinion. Therefore, knowing this portion of the exam content through SHM SPARK made up for the questions that I felt should not have been fair game. I, for one, would likely not have passed without SHM SPARK.

Dr. Crone: It’s worth the time, effort, and cost. Although much or most of the exam content was couched in a clinical scenario, substantive content existed on the MOC exam around these subject areas. To not use some form of structured approach to covering this material would have been a mistake.

Dr. Pal: SHM SPARK is extremely valuable if you plan to take the FPHM exam as it highlights many areas not covered by any other review material. It offers great CME, too! TH

Brett Radler is SHM’s communications specialist.

More Info

For more information about how SHM SPARK can help you master your preparation for the FPHM MOC exam this fall, visit

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