It's been over a year since the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) announced its intentions to overhaul the maintenance of certification (MOC) process. In this reportorial article, I'll bring you up-to-date with current MOC requirements and the changes likely to occur over the next year. In addition, I'll provide some updates regarding several developments that pertain to MOC opposition.
MOC circa 2016
In 2010, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and its member boards changed the model of certification to today's model that is based on continuous "maintenance" of certification. As a consequence, in 2010, the ABP began issuing certificates with no end dates. Pediatricians were listed either as "participating in MOC" on the ABP website or "not participating in MOC." According to current data provided by the ABP website, as of December 2015, approximately 34% of the pediatrician workforce has a permanent certificate and 53% of pediatricians have time-limited certificates. These numbers are essentially unchanged from 2013. Of note is that about 14% of pediatricians have let their ABP certificates lapse, which represents a small increase from 11% in 2013 (Figure).
The situation that ultimately caused many of the member boards of the ABMS to consider a "gentler" approach to MOC involved a directive imposed on membership by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in 2014. In that year, the ABIM mandated that member physicians participate in MOC every 2 years. Additionally, grandfathered ABIM physicians began to be listed as "certified, not meeting MOC requirements" on the ABIM website if they didn't register for continuous MOC.
In response to written protests from over 20,000 internists, the ABIM issued an "apology" letter that indicated that the ABIM would suspend several of its Part 4 requirements and change the language reporting a diplomate's MOC status on its website. The letter also indicated that the ABIM will update the MOC written exam to make it more relevant to current practice.
This event led to the development of an alternative board (more on this later) as well as the expectation among other physicians that their own boards would begin embracing "reform."
Changes in ABP MOC
Over the past year, the ABP began to solicit feedback from member pediatricians and expressed its intention to make MOC requirements less rigorous and more relevant to pediatric practice. The 2016 annual report from the ABP was recently published, and it includes much information regarding what transformations already have occurred and what is likely to happen to the 10-year recertification exam (MOC part 3).
Firstly, in response to discussions surrounding the quality assurance (QA) projects required for Part 4, the ABP now provides full 40 credits for pediatric practices that have achieved National Center for Quality Assurance (NCQA), patient-centered medical home (PCMH) status. Many practices have sought this certification, which I detailed in a previous Peds v2.0 article, "Home sweet 'medical home'" (Contemporary Pediatrics, November 2013). Achieving PCMH status assures patients (and insurance companies) that practices have met or surpassed quality benchmarks. This enables certified practices to prove eligibility for quality payment incentives offered by many Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and insurance companies. It should be noted however, that the ABP only provides MOC Part 4 credit for PCMH certification via NCQA, which is just one of several organizations that provide PCMH certification. These include URAC (formerly the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission), the Joint Commission, and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.
The ABP also provides MOC credit for participation in state or national quality initiatives. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Division of Chapter Quality includes several ongoing quality projects involving asthma care, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis and management, immunizations, and mental health and adolescent substance abuse. Now MOC Part 4 credit is also granted for small practices that design and pursue their own QA projects, such as undertaking a project to improve rates of handwashing among providers and staff.