The American Board of Medical Specialties and its 24 member organizations are collaborating to re-evaluate how physicians are certified for continued practice.
The initiative, called Continuing Board Certification: Vision for the Future, will bring together multiple stakeholders to create "a system of continuing board certification that is meaningful, relevant and of value," according to a news release announcing the collaboration.
The effort to revamp the recertification process comes amid controversy over specialty boards and their practices. To maintain certification, doctors must complete a maintenance-of-certification program, which is a continuous training and self-assessment process that replaced periodic physician testing.
But doctors have long complained that the continued certification process is too time-consuming, expensive and lacks value.
The American Medical Association falls into that camp, having said that the ABMS' maintenance-of-certification program, or MOC, doesn't have much value.
There have also been concerns that specialty societies are more generators of revenue than helpful to doctors. A recent JAMA study found fees collected by specialty boards for certification examinations made up 88% of board revenue in 2013, yet the cost of administering those tests accounted for only 21% of board expenditures.
Although board certification isn't a requirement to practice medicine, most hospitals only seek out board-certified physicians. More than 800,000 physicians in the U.S. are certified by one of the American Board of Medical Specialties' 24 member boards.
The collaboration will likely address ways to "revise and modernize" MOC programs, said Dr. Norman Kahn, executive vice president and CEO of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, a specialty board member association that will participate in the planning committee of the initiative.
There is a perception that MOC programs are "not aligned with the demands of physicians and their practices . . . we can do a better job," he added.
Dr. Lois Margaret Nora, president and CEO of the American Board of Medical Specialties, said there has been tremendous innovation among specialty boards to make the recertification process less burdensome for physicians and the collaboration will likely build on that work.
"I think our boards want to be responsive to the stresses physicians are under and that has been one of the big reasons boards have been transforming their assessment processes," she said.
For example, the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Pediatrics have recently revamped their recertification process to allow doctors to answer questions via their home computer or smartphone, Nora said. This takes away some of the stresses associated with having to take a test at a designated place.
In a statement the AMA said, "We are pleased to join the American Board of Medical Specialties' new commission, along with other physician-focused organizations, to help assess their current continuing board certification system and offer recommendations for ensuring it aligns with physician learning and practice improvement needs guided by AMA policy and based on feedback from physicians."
A commission with at least 21 stakeholders will be established in the next few months to lead the initiative. They will hold hearings, test ideas and seek feedback from physicians and the public. It's estimated that the process will take approximately 12 to 15 months, according to the news release.
An edited version of this story can also be found in Modern Healthcare's Oct. 2 print edition.