The man behind MOC defends the program against critics
ME: How would you characterize the ABIM’s relationship with the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons [an organization founded last year to offer doctors an alternative route to maintaining certification]? I assume you saw their announcement in the last couple of days about their agreement with the osteopathic association?
RB: To be honest, I didn’t actually see that announcement, and Dr. Teirstein [Paul Teirstein, MD, NBPAS founder and president] and I have spoken on a number of occasions.
I think it’s pretty clear what the difference is. Again, for NBPAS as I understand their requirements, it’s ‘send us copies of your CME certificates and a check and we’ll send you a certificate as long as you were originally ABMS board-certified in any ABMS discipline.’
There’ve always been boards like that. Rand Paul created his own ophthalmology board 25 years ago or so. And it hung around for a few years in Kentucky and then he stopped doing it. But there have always been boards out there. The difference between us and them is the standards. We have a set of standards, and when you asked earlier why we aren’t moving faster, why don’t we just have an answer to this, it’s because having meaningful standards that are real is very difficult to do and it takes a lot of work. We make that investment. And NBPAS, as far as I can tell, has not made that investment.
Now, they’ve been around a year and a half. The last I saw on their website they say they have 3,100 doctors who’ve signed up. There’s 900,000 doctors in the country. We have 200,000 doctors. I think that people are staying with us because we issue something that means something, as opposed to, if all you’re doing is the same think you had to do for licensure anyway, what’s the value added? And I think people have been angry at us and they wanted to say, ‘we want an alternative.’ But I haven’t seen a lot of large reputable organizations get on that train, because they care about standards too.
ME: So you’re not concerned that what NBPAS does may make what ABIM does irrelevant?
RB: I’m not concerned at all, I think if anything they make it more relevant, because they highlight the fact that we actually have a performance standard in the middle of our program.
ME: Another big concern we hear is how ABIM spends its money. And today’s announcement didn’t really touch on finances at all. Are you concerned about the anger that’s out there about ABIM’s finances?
RB: A lot of people have raised issues about that. We are fully transparent about that. Go to our website, abim.org/finances and you’ll see a graphic that shows you where we spend our money and how we spend our money. You’ll see an audited financial statement posted on our website, which very few nonprofits do.