Research Shows Continuing Certification Programs Improve Care, Enhance Knowledge, Link to Fewer Disciplinary Actions

On July 1, 2020

Recent research suggests that participation in American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Member Boards’ continuing certification programs has been shown to improve care and enhance knowledge, and is associated with fewer disciplinary actions.

Primary care providers (PCPs) participating in performance improvement activities improved care for two patient populations, according to two recent studies. PCPs improved their developmental screening rates in underserved, rural primary care practices by participating in an Improvement in Medical Practice (IMP) activity. The study authors noted that improved screening rates show promise in decreasing time to critical developmental evaluations, interventions, and resources.

In another study, PCPs improved their influenza and pneumococcal vaccination rates for patient populations at high risk or aged ≥ 65 by participating in a quality improvement continuing medical education (QI-CME) intervention. The authors concluded that the findings strengthen the evidence that CME learning interventions can advance QI goals and more favorably affect physicians’ practice when educational strategies are used. PCPs who engaged in this QI project were eligible for IMP continuing certification credit.

A study focusing on article-based assessments that are part of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s continuing certification program found that obstetricians/gynecologists retain the knowledge they gain from these assessments. While the obstetricians/gynecologists retained information they read from both types of articles (based on answering understanding and application questions), they retained significantly more for the application items compared with the understanding items. The authors noted that the understanding items ensure the obstetricians/gynecologists comprehend the article while application questions ensure they can generalize and apply their understanding from the article.

A new study adds to the growing literature demonstrating the association between board certification by an ABMS Member Board and higher quality, safer care, which supports the public trust in certification by a Member Board. In a retrospective analysis, the incidence of severe license actions was significantly greater for surgeons who attempted and failed to obtain certification from the American Board of Surgery than surgeons who were certified. The authors concluded that obtaining board certification is associated with a lower rate of receiving severe license actions from a state medical board. Passing examinations in the certification exam process on the first attempt also was associated with lower severe license action rates. The authors noted that this study provides supporting evidence that board certification can be viewed as a marker of surgeon quality and professionalism.
In a commentary on the study, the authors noted that the ability to use the board exam to detect surgeons at risk for severe disciplinary action provides an exciting potential mechanism for using targeted preventive measures that could protect the public and profession from harm. Data from prior studies have demonstrated that intervening early when unprofessional behaviors emerge can lead to improved performance. Preventive measures that may be used to optimize performance of these individuals include proctoring, additional training, coaching, 360o evaluations, wellness evaluations, and modifications to practice.

© 2020, American Board of Medical Specialties

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