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Hospitalists Optimistic over ABIM Changes to Maintenance of Certification Requirements


News that the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) will reboot its controversial Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program is an opportunity for hospitalists to help shape their own professional development, according to former ABIM chair and hospital medicine pioneer Robert Wachter, MD, MHM.

A year ago, ABIM moved from an MOC every 10 years to a more continuous certification process. The goal was to keep physicians more current, but the change sparked backlash over education costs, the applicability and usefulness of exam questions, and bureaucratic burdens of the new process.

In a public statement last week, ABIM president and CEO Richard Baron, MD, acknowledged that "ABIM clearly got it wrong. We launched programs that weren't ready and we didn't deliver an MOC program that physicians found meaningful."

Dr. Wachter, who was ABIM's chair when Dr. Baron was hired, says that ABIM's new plan to reach out to specialty societies means SHM can lobby for an MOC process that is more current, more applicable, and more meaningful to practitioners. Given that HM as a specialty was launched as a novel idea on what would make a good care model for hospitalized patients, Dr. Wachter is confident that SHM can be helpful in guiding the creation of a better MOC process.

Hospital medicine "was built on out-of-the-box thinking, on accepting certain parts of the old model of what a good doctor was but throwing other parts out and saying, 'We want to rethink this,'" Dr. Wachter says. "I can't think of a specialty that’s better positioned to help."

Meanwhile, hospitalist and ABIM Council member Jeff Wiese, MD, MHM, sees an opportunity to make sure the overall process for "knowledge improvement" is enhanced so that disconnects between practitioners and ABIM do not continue.

"We have to ensure that what happened over the past 20 years doesn't happen again," Dr. Wiese says. "Namely, that the world of medicine doesn't move so fast that the ABIM MOC requirements don't keep up. If we engage as physicians and specialty organizations in meaningful dialogues…then we have a much better chance of making MOC sufficiently dynamic to meet the changing times."

SHM President Burke Kealey, MD, SFHM, says that hospitalists were less impacted than some other specialists by the MOC change because they could use the Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine (FPHM) exam. The FPHM test was crafted by "real practicing hospitalists [writing] the questions for hospitalists from the point of view of what a hospitalist needs to know to do their job," he says.

Dr. Kealey adds that SHM plans to help hospitalists prepare for exams through courses featured at next month’s annual meeting and with the publication of a study guide due out this fall focused on the test's nonclinical aspects. Since it was posted last week, Dr. Kealey's blog on "The Hospital Leader" has attracted the interest of thousands of hospitalists and has been shared more than 70 times.

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