The American Board of Internal Medicine is seeking input on a plan to offer a shorter, more flexible option for how physicians test to maintain their board certification.
In a blog posted on the organization's site Wednesday, the ABIM announced plans to evolve its maintenance-of-certification program to allow for what it called a 'longitudinal assessment option' for physicians to acquire knowledge as they are being assessed.
The maintenance-of-certification program has been criticized in recent years by physicians who argued the ABIM charged too much, the process was too time-consuming and that, for some, the program did not improve physician quality.
ABIM President and CEO Dr. Richard Baron said the longitudinal program will be a continuous assessment that allows physicians to receive questions at their own convenience and get constant feedback on their answers.
To maintain certification physicians would be assessed on the accumulative performance both in their answers and their level of engagement with the program over a multiyear period. That's a stark departure from the traditional approach of taking a long-form examination once every 10 years at a test center.
"If they were doing this on a continuous basis, they wouldn't need to do point-in-time assessment at all," Baron said.
In response to concerns about the time involved, in 2018 the ABIM introduced its "Knowledge Check-In" program that allows physicians to take an examination once every two years at a test center or online at their home or workplace.
Baron said details of the longitudinal assessment are in the initial stages of development. He said the assessment period for physicians under the new program has been tentatively set for five years. Baron could not provide an estimate on when the program will be offered or how much it will cost, though he expected it would be around the same cost in aggregate over the period of time in which the credential is in effect.
Board certification isn't a requirement to practice medicine, but many hospitals require it of their physicians as a condition of employment, or if physicians want practicing privileges.
Currently, more than 201,000 internal medicine physicians in the U.S. are certified by the ABIM. According to the organization, doctors who maintained their board certification within 10 years of receiving their initial certification were two times less likely to face state board disciplinary action than those physicians who did not pass the exam.
Baron expected the next phase of the program design process to begin in the coming weeks as the ABIM receives input about the plan from its members.