The American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) is working to create a new process for continuing certification by offering an alternative to the ConCert Examination. The ConCert will remain an option for physicians who wish to take it, and many likely will. However, there will soon be a way to opt out of taking the 10-year exam.
ABEM just completed a year-long listening program where we sought the opinions of leaders in our specialty. ABEM has had extensive conversations with the ACEP Board of Directors, the leadership of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, and about half of the state ACEP chapters. We’ve also reviewed thousands of survey responses from last year. One of the most helpful conversations we had was at the ConCert Summit, a national summit we convened last October that included representatives from every major emergency medicine organization. What we heard was a desire to focus on three areas: cost, convenience, and clinical relevance.
The Three Cs
Despite Maintenance of Certification (MOC) fees averaging only $265 per year, those costs are not evenly distributed, and they do not include additional costs that a physician might spend. Discussions about cost are complicated. We know that 32 percent of physicians take an off-site board prep course, which adds an additional expense. However, there is usually a substantial amount of continuing medical education (CME) awarded, and the course’s expense is tax deductible. We also know that being board-certified is associated with higher financial compensation. Still, the costs feel considerable. ABEM also realizes that there is a significant cost in time. We know that 98 percent of physicians study for the ConCert because the consequences of failing are substantial. The amount of preparation by physicians is also why the pass rate is so high, and more than 90 percent of physicians report a learning benefit to preparing for and taking the ConCert.
Convenience is a challenge. When ABEM changed from offering the recertification examination on a single date in only a handful of sites to offering the examination at Pearson VUE testing centers, ABEM-certified physicians were very pleased. Times have changed. We heard a strong request to add flexibility into the process and expand when and where tests can be taken. For the existing ConCert, starting in 2019, ABEM will offer the test twice yearly to provide an extra opportunity to pass the examination so that physicians have greater opportunities to maintain certification. We are looking at additional ways to optimize the convenience of completing the ConCert alternative.