There are many challenges facing medical certification organizations these days—evolving certification standards, technology integration, and increased scrutiny from the medical community and regulators, to name a few—but Michael L. Carius, MD, FACEP, is ready to meet those challenges. He was elected President of the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) in August and will serve for the 2016–2017 term.
Dr. Carius is currently assistant clinical professor in the department of traumatology and emergency medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, emeritus chair of the department of emergency medicine at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, and an emergency physician at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport and Milford Hospital in Milford, all in Connecticut.
He has a long history with ABEM, including serving on its Board of Directors since 2009 and on its executive committee since 2013. He is also an active ACEP member, having served on the Board of Directors and as ACEP President for 2000–2001.
Dr. Carius recently sat down with ACEP Now to talk about his goals as ABEM President and the value ABEM certification has for physicians and society.
What are your goals during your term as ABEM President?
I have three main goals. First, one of most important things I can accomplish is to maintain the current trajectory of ABEM. ABEM is constantly innovating with testing formats, such as the eOral cases, and regularly reviewing the ABEM Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program. Creating positive changes that enhance the relevance and meaningfulness of the MOC program is a priority for me.
The second goal I have is to further strengthen our relationships with other emergency medicine organizations. We have an outstanding relationship with ACEP and our specialty. Emergency physicians and patients seeking emergency care benefit when we are all working together.
Our ability to partner with other organizations such as ACEP has led to high-value CME as a part of MOC. ABEM has received outstanding suggestions from the EM community that have increased the value of certification.
The third goal is to get more community emergency physicians involved in ABEM activities, including writing exam questions, becoming oral examiners, and even being on the ABEM Board. Most of our diplomates practice in the community setting, and we need their input and participation.
What is your vision for ABEM, especially as it impacts other organizations?
ABEM interacts with different organizations on several levels, including other EM organizations, other medical specialties, and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Our ability to partner with other organizations such as ACEP has led to high-value CME as a part of MOC. ABEM has received outstanding suggestions from the EM community that have increased the value of certification.
With respect to other specialties, it is becoming increasingly important for there to be greater consistency among the boards. This is particularly true when the ABMS is discussing policy decisions with regulators to maintain the privilege of professional self-regulation. By the way, if physicians don’t think that self-regulation is being threatened, look at the intrusion of government into quality reporting and physician reimbursement.
How do you envision the ABEM presidency being different than your ACEP presidency?
Well, let me start with some commonalities. Both boards are composed of incredibly talented and motivated emergency physicians who want to improve the specialty. It is an honor to be in service to emergency physicians; I can think of serving no finer group of professionals. As President of ACEP and now as President of ABEM, I see myself as a servant leader, with an opportunity to move the specialty forward. In addition, as a community physician, I want to ensure that the voice of the community physician is heard.
ABEM and ACEP are markedly different organizations in that ACEP is a membership organization with an emphasis on advocacy and education. ABEM is a certifying body with a quasi-regulatory function. With initial certification, ABEM makes certain that physicians meet very high professional standards. Throughout a physician’s career, maintaining certification means that the physician is continuing to meet those standards. ABEM certification is a credential to be proud of. Being certified is hard work and the public, payers, and credentialers value it. After all, it is what sets us apart from our non–board-certified colleagues.
A recent example is that we are piloting a program of no longer requiring the attestation of a patient experience of care or patient satisfaction survey. We are committed to finding a more meaningful way to assess professionalism and physician communication. We are also going to start providing greater detail in the score reports with the 2017 Lifelong Learning and Self Assessment, which I think diplomates will like.
How do you see MOC changing in the future?
There has never been a time when ABEM hasn’t been changing its MOC program. However, ABEM must make changes that comply with the ABMS 2015 MOC standards. Most of the changes to MOC that ABEM has made result from feedback from our diplomates; we definitely listen to diplomate suggestions. A recent example is that we are piloting a program of no longer requiring the attestation of a patient experience of care or patient satisfaction survey. We are committed to finding a more meaningful way to assess professionalism and physician communication. We are also going to start providing greater detail in the score reports with the 2017 Lifelong Learning and Self Assessment, which I think diplomates will like.
With regard to the ConCert Examination, we are closely monitoring the pilots of boards like the American Board of Anesthesiology. ABEM will be watchful to see if such a format will be a good fit for emergency medicine. What we must remember, however we proceed, is that ABEM certification will always involve the assessment of physicians against an external national standard.
What is the number-one benefit ABEM provides to diplomates and to society?
There are many benefits to the ABEM MOC program, including additional compensation, greater career opportunities, reinforcing and learning new medical knowledge, and greater respect among peers.
The number-one benefit of certification to the diplomate is in possessing a credential that proves to the patient and others that the physician has been engaged in a rigorous program of continuous professional development and that the physician has “made the grade.”
The benefit to the public is considerable. The public doesn’t often pick their emergency physician, and we want patients to be assured that when they are being treated by an ABEM-certified physician, they are receiving what is likely the safest and highest-quality care available.