The American Board of Anesthesiology says it will retool its process for assessing physicians' competency, putting an end to a practice of testing every 10 years that has drawn critics across multiple specialties.
The certifying body for anesthesiologists announced on Thursday it was redesigning its Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology Program, or MOCA. The move was several years in the making, as more physicians complained that preparing for the more than 300-question exam interrupted their clinical practice. Others said some of the questions had nothing to do their particular specialties.
“It's kind of silly to be testing people once every 10 years over areas in anesthesiology that in that 10 years their practice never touched,” said Dr. Jeffrey Plagenhoef, first vice president for the American Society of Anesthesiologists, an educational and research association for physicians responding to the changes. “We're moving to a system where anesthesiologists will get a choice of both study content or focus, and therefore the lifelong learning becomes more relevant to their practice.”
The new program, called MOCA 2.0, will consist of an online Web portal that will allow physicians to access educational resources pertinent to their areas of practice.
Beginning in January, doctors will be regularly evaluated with a pilot self-assessment tool. Every Monday physicians will receive an e-mail reminder to log on to the portal, where they will be required to answer one question in under one minute. Doctors will be required to answer 30 questions every quarter for a total of 120 questions a year. Over time, different questions on the same topics will be asked to assess how well physicians have retained the material.
Questions will be accessed through an e-mailed link, logging directly on to the portal or downloading a mobile app.
The move toward an ongoing learning tool for physicians came after working several years with certification participants who provided feedback on improving the process, according to Dr. James Rathmell, secretary for the ABA and chair of the department of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
“We understand that once-every-10-year exams kind of promoted people studying for a couple of months, cramming for the exam, passing it and then moving on,” Rathmell said. “We all felt that wasn't a very good way of keeping physicians up to date and it probably didn't translate into tremendously better patient care.”
The redesign could be seen as a pre-emptive move on behalf of the ABA to avoid some of the controversy that occurred in February when the American Board of Internal Medicine announced it had suspended parts of its MOC program after physicians said it was a waste of time and money.
ABA's overhauled re-certification program is the first among those taken by 24 members within the American Board of Medical Specialties. Rathmell said he has gotten “enormous interest” regarding the program from other specialty boards who may adopt similar changes in the coming months.