As part of a broader movement to increase transparency throughout healthcare, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has begun a reporting initiative that will impact all of its member boards, including the American Board of Radiology (ABR).
Since August 2011, ABMS has reported on its public website, certificationmatters.org, whether physicians certified by seven of its 24 member boards are meeting ABMS Maintenance of Certification® (ABMS MOC) program requirements. In the near future, ABR-certified diagnostic radiologists, radiation oncologists and medical physicists also will be reported on the ABMS website as "meeting requirements of MOC," "not meeting requirements of MOC" or "not required to participate in MOC."
In tandem with the public reporting initiative, ABR has implemented a new MOC status verification system that will ensure that diplomates remain current in their requirements for certification. Under the new "Continuous Certification" process, certificates will no longer display an end date but will instead state that ongoing certification is contingent on meeting MOC requirements. Lifetime certificate holders are not required to participate in Continuous Certification but are encouraged to do so on a voluntary basis.
ABR has been working on a number of fronts to get the word out about these changes and to implement them seamlessly. "ABR is determined to make this transition as facile and easy as possible," said Milton J. Guiberteau, M.D., ABR president-elect and an ABR trustee. "We would like diplomates to understand that although this is a change, it's a change for the better and with their best interests in mind."
Public reporting has been a long time in coming. Much as public demand for transparency has fueled consumer sites like Angie's List, patients hungry for information on their own healthcare are pushing for increased accountability from providers.
"Healthcare has been poised for this type of change for some time," Dr. Guiberteau said. "Public accountability has become part of the national consciousness and healthcare is fast becoming a part of that. It is the duty of our member boards to report this information in a way that is accurate, helpful and most beneficial to our patients."
Public reporting has already taken hold in many areas of healthcare, said ABR Executive Director Gary J. Becker, M.D. "Report cards on physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and health plans abound," added Dr. Becker, who served as RSNA president in 2009.
Along with offering transparency, public reporting simplifies the process for consumers who can check a physician's certification status from one centralized database for all 24 ABMS boards. Dr. Becker stressed that ABR diplomates are responsible for making sure the information on their ABR Personal Databases (PDBs) is accurate and up-to-date. Diplomates may log on at www.abronline.org.
"We need diplomates to go to their PDBs and to the ABMS website and verify their information is displayed correctly and to let us know immediately if there are any discrepancies," Dr. Becker said. An added incentive to stay on top of MOC certification status: A recent ABMS survey found that 95 percent of Americans say it's important that their doctors participate in a program to maintain their board certification, while nearly half (45 percent) would look for a new doctor if they learned theirs was not participating in such a program.
Linking public reporting and continuous certification is critical to standardizing the MOC process that has been something of a patchwork since it was created 12 years ago, ABR leaders said. Because each of the 24 ABMS member boards had separate MOC programs, adopting common standards was necessary to ensure consistency of use for participants and the public.
"With Continuous Certification, every person's MOC status is more manageable, fewer mistakes are made and the process is streamlined," said David Laszakovits, ABR's director of certification services. "This will be especially important as MOC continues to evolve."
Along with keeping reporting clear and preventing unanticipated changes to the certification status of someone who has fallen behind in requirements, Continuous Certification aligns reporting more closely with programs of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Joint Commission, state licensing boards and other institutions.
Instead of the 10-year, time-limited certification for meeting MOC requirements, Continuous Certification uses a look-back period to evaluate all four MOC components and render a diplomate's participation status. This annual look-back will encompass a yearly check of licensure; a rolling three-year check of CME, SAMs and PQI project completion; and a rolling 10-year check of exam status. All new and maintained certificates will move to the new model this year, while the "valid through" dates on existing certificates will continue to be recognized. The underlying MOC requirements will not change.
ABR leaders say Continuous Certification has a number of benefits, including:
Additionally, the changes will optimize the MOC program's potential by eliminating redundant efforts, minimizing busywork and aligning with other external requirements and incentives.
RSNA education leaders emphasize the Society's role in ensuring all members fulfill their MOC requirements and stress the ongoing commitment to supporting RSNA members in maintaining board certification.
"The important work of the RSNA Content Advisory Panel has helped RSNA significantly increase the number of SAMs available online and the RSNA Quality Improvement Committee is working to double by the end of 2012 the size of its library of ABR-qualified PQI projects for use by members in meeting their Part 4 requirements," said Richard L. Baron, M.D., RSNA Board Liaison for Education. "These resources are all designed to support RSNA members in efficiently fulfilling their MOC requirements and optimizing their personal learning and professional development."
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