Tony has a strong expertise in the healthcare and managed care/payer arena. He currently manages the workflow of Oncology Business Management, a business trade journal geared towards community oncologists/hematologists.

Specialists Balk at Recertification Rules

Published: Monday, Jul 21, 2014

Many specialists are balking at what they say are onerous new rules to get recertified, warning the demands will force some physicians out of practice at a time when the nation faces a shortage, says a story from Kaiser Health News that also appeared in USA Today.

Doctors say the new requirements have made maintaining specialty certifications a process that never ends. Younger doctors already retake the arduous certification exam every seven to 10 years to keep their credential, long considered the gold standard of expertise. But physicians of all ages must now complete a complex set of requirements every two to three years, or risk losing their certification.

Supporters contend the new process will ensure doctors incorporate the latest medical advances into their practices, but many critics dismiss it as meaningless, expensive and a waste of time.

The conflict comes at a time when the credentials are increasingly relied upon as a quality indicator. Many consumers check a physician’s board status before making appointments, and some medical centers and insurers require maintenance of certification for doctors seeking hospital privileges or entrée to their health insurance panels.

“Right now, for better or for worse, board certification is one of the best quality indicators we have,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, an employer-based coalition that advocates for greater health care quality and safety.

If physicians want to improve the process, she said, they should appeal to their specialty boards, “but you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Since its origins in 1933, board certification has always been voluntary, rather than a condition of licensure. Most medical specialties granted certification for life until the 1980s; physicians took the exams only once, after completing their training.

Physicians also complain about the cost of maintaining the credential, which is about $2000 every 10 years, not to mention the additional costs of test prep courses, materials and travel expenses, as well as the cost of having to close their practices when they take the test.

Of greatest concern to physicians is that state medical boards might incorporate the new rules into licensure requirements.

According to a presentation by Richard Stone, MD, made at the May 2014 ASCO meeting, nearly 150,000 physicians are enrolled in the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Program, under which the Oncology Specialty Board provides certification oversight. In his presentation, Stone reported that 71% of those ever certified in medical oncology are enrolled in MOC and 82% of time-limited medical oncology diplomats are enrolled in MOC.

Maintaining a certification through ABIM helps healthcare professionals stay current, gives members an opportunity to earn CME credit, and provides aid in meeting hospitals’ and medical groups’ privileging requirements.

The MOC program requirements are available at the official site: http://moc2014.abim.org/.

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