Why angry NC physicians losing faith in certification board

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The American Board of Internal Medicine has imposed new Maintenance of Certification requirements that physicians all over the United States oppose. Most physicians in fact have chosen to let their certifications go.

A new board, National Board of Physicians and Surgeons, even has emerged, showing not only dissatisfaction among the physician community but also a complete loss of faith in ABIM and its sister organizations.

Physicians who have been in practice for more than 20 years and have been certified and recertified in internal medicine by ABIM are asked to go through a repeated and unproven process of maintenance of certification and pay huge amounts of money to ABIM and its sister organizations.

Many physicians in the Research Triangle area, where we have prestigious schools and medical universities and hospitals, are furious and stunned that ABIM has failed to pay attention to their legitimate concerns.

In my email contacts and survey of more than 150 physicians in Research Triangle Area, not a single physician supports the new MOC requirements. Even the ABIM task force has not supported its own MOC process.

Studies published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine reveal that cumulatively 2015 MOCs will cost $5.7 billion over 10 years, including $5.1 billion in time costs and $561 million in testing costs.

ABIM and its sister organizations are collecting millions of dollars from physicians every year with no clear benefit to physicians or their patients. Much of the money goes to the ABIM Foundation, whose assets are reported as $81,831,953 – almost all generated from fees collected from physicians. None of this is spent on the welfare of physicians or advancement of medical knowledge.

The ABIM is trying to lobby and influence hospitals and payer organizations to restrict physicians from credentialing who are not recertifying with ABIM. In other words, ABIM is restricting privileges of physicians who refuse to contribute to ABIM bank accounts.

Physicians must be protected from these shakedowns and exorbitant fees. It is the moral duty of state medical boards, state governments and even Congress to protect physicians in their domain.

Currently, only Oklahoma and Kentucky have passed laws against the MOC requirements, while in Michigan and Missouri bills are awaiting committee hearings. At least 19 medical societies in the states, including North Carolina, have passed resolutions against MOC requirements, and many more may be forthcoming.

Physicians all over the country are angry over the piecemeal response from ABIM and its sister organizations. Out of frustration, physicians are coming up with their own novel solutions and responses, such as creating alternative boards.

On average, internists and IM specialists each will spend $23,607 for recertification and, as a group, will spend $5.7 billion over 10 years. The question is, will this inflow to ABIM improve quality of care for patients, the quality of life for physicians or just the quality of life of the ABIM staff? The answer is evident.

Physicians need lifelong learning and continuing medical education, not lifelong exams and a lifelong burden of fees.

We urge our lawmakers to protect physician and patient rights and to bring an end to the unnecessary requirements of maintenance of certifications. We press on them to investigate the abuse going on in medical specialties’ organizations and corporate medicine.

It also is our humble request to all the hospital staff, insurance companies and state medical examiners not to tie Maintenance of Certification requirements to credentialing of physicians by hospitals, to reimbursement of physicians or to maintenance of state licenses. Doing so would be a grave disservice not only to physicians but to our patients, who need us the most.

Ghulam M. Shaikh, M.D., practices internal medicine in Garner.