Alan Lichtin, MD, chair of the MOC working group for the American Society of Hematology (ASH), said the self-paced pathway is a much-needed option, particularly the immediate feedback on test questions.
“For years, ASH has been advocating that ABIM move from the traditional sit-down testing to an alternative form of ‘formative’ assessment that has been adapted by other specialty boards,” Dr. Lichtin said in an interview. Anesthesiology and pediatrics have novel testing methods that fit into physicians’ schedules without being so disruptive and anxiety provoking. There is instantaneous feedback about whether the answers are correct or not. It is not useful to study hard for a time-intensive, comprehensive test only to get a summary of what was missed a long time after the test. By that point, the exam material is no longer fresh in one’s mind and therefore the feedback is no longer useful.”
The new pathway is still under development, and ABIM has not said when the option might be launched. In the meantime, the current MOC program and its traditional exam will remain in effect. The board is requesting feedback and comments from physicians about the option. Dr. Baron wrote that more information about the change will be forthcoming in the months ahead.
The ABIM announcement comes on the heels of an ongoing legal challenge levied at the board by a group of internists over its MOC process.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 6, 2018, in Pennsylvania district court and later amended in 2019, claims that ABIM is charging inflated monopoly prices for maintaining certification, that the organization is forcing physicians to purchase MOC, and that ABIM is inducing employers and others to require ABIM certification. The four plaintiff-physicians are asking a judge to find ABIM in violation of federal antitrust law and to bar the board from continuing its MOC process. The suit is filed as a class action on behalf of all internists and subspecialists required by ABIM to purchase MOC to maintain their ABIM certifications. .
Two other lawsuits challenging MOC, one against the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and another against the American Board of Radiology, are ongoing. A fourth lawsuit against the American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Board of Emergency Medicine, and the American Board of Anesthesiology was filed in February.
Attorneys for all three boards in the ABIM, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and American Board of Radiology cases are seeking to dismiss the complaints. Judges have not yet ruled on the motions. In addition, a motion to consolidate all the cases was denied by the court.
A GoFundMe campaign launched by the Practicing Physicians of America to pay for plaintiffs’ costs associated with the class-action lawsuits has now garnered more than $300,000.
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