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College, ABIM are working together on recertification

From the January ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 2003 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

By Sara E. Walker, MACP, and Douglas P. Zipes, FACP

We are pleased to report that our organizations have reached an important agreement that will allow us to move into the future, fully committed to life-long learning and the need for periodic recertification. This agreement will benefit internal medicine, and more importantly, the patients we serve.

Early in the fall of 2002, the agreement was codified into a memorandum of understanding that representatives from both organizations signed. It was then approved in October by ACP-ASIM's Board of Regents and the Board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). Our agreement includes the ACP-ASIM's support of the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program's principles, goals and specifics. (The agreement is available to College members on [M]ACP-ASIM Online and to ABIM diplomates.)

This agreement was the result of more than two years of negotiations between ACP-ASIM and ABIM leaders. The goal was to ensure that the CPD program addresses issues important to quality, accountability and the everyday concerns of practicing internists.

  • Liaison committee. We have created a means for addressing the future development of the CPD program. The ABIM will establish a new advisory liaison committee that will enhance the working relationship among the Board, ACP-ASIM and collaborating subspecialty societies while carefully preserving each organization's separate responsibilities and missions. Our organizations agree that medical societies are charged with education and that the ABIM is charged with evaluating the competence of internists and subspecialists, in accordance with the principles developed by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

    The liaison committee on recertification will function in an advisory capacity, meeting twice each year and as needed "to review and comment on recommendations and proposals for new and existing pathways for CPD and the components therein." The ABIM appreciates having a better forum to request and receive advice from diplomates about the CPD program.

    The CPD program will uphold the rigorous standards characteristic of ABIM evaluation. Both organizations believe that the CPD program should continue to be relevant to a variety of practice settings, reduce redundancy, accommodate different learning styles and be sensitive to the cost and time burdens on diplomates.

  • New timetables. Understanding that CPD is still evolving, we agreed on timetables to implement new components of the CPD program. Until 2010, for example, internists will have a wide choice of which self-evaluation modules they must complete.

    Of the five modules required to complete CPD, the ABIM will require that only one be directly related to the discipline in which the diplomate is recertifying. For example, internal medicine candidates must complete at least one internal medicine knowledge module, and cardiologists at least one in cardiology. Internists may select any other modules to meet the remaining four requirements, including modules focused on medical knowledge in other areas, practice improvement, clinical skills, or patient and peer feedback.

    New modules will be available in electronic formats, and many will incorporate high-tech features such as audio and video clips and hyperlinks to Web-based educational material provided by medical societies.

  • Credit for MKSAP and CME. Staff from the ABIM and ACP-ASIM have already begun conversations to make these goals a reality. For example, we are working on a process that allows diplomates who complete MKSAP self-evaluation questions to earn CPD credit for up to two medical knowledge modules. Similar agreements have been reached with several subspecialty societies, and these societies will participate on the liaison committee.

    In addition, the ABIM will continue to seek input from ACP-ASIM and subspecialty societies in the development and implementation of practice improvement modules. With the College and subspecialty societies as partners, the ABIM will have many opportunities to give medical societies a greater role in support of self-evaluation modules.

    To complement these efforts, an initiative to link CME material with the CPD program is underway, an effort we hope will be completed by the end of 2003. When this option is complete, it will be offered to ACP-ASIM and to subspecialty societies at no charge.

  • Computer-based testing. To make the secure testing portion of CPD more convenient for internists, the ABIM continues to move ahead with computer-based testing. In May 2003, diplomates will be able to take the internal medicine recertification examination via computer at one of more than 200 centers throughout the United States.

    If these efforts are successful, other recertification examinations will be moved to computer-based formats later this year, including the next recertification exam in November 2003. Convenient local testing centers should help meet our mutual goal of eliminating barriers for internists who want to maintain their certification.

The College and the Board believe that these agreements will strengthen the relationship between the ABIM and ACP-ASIM to make the CPD program more relevant and efficient. It will form the basis for linking the high standards for recertification established by ABIM with the educational resources developed by ACP-ASIM.

We have signed the memorandum of understanding with the best interests of internists in mind, and with the conviction that our collaboration will be valuable to the profession and the public we serve.

Dr. Walker is President of ACP-ASIM and Dr. Zipes is Chair of ABIM.

Correction:
In the December 2002 issue, ACP-ASIM Observer incorrectly described the American Board of Internal Medicine's plans for future recertification exams. ("College, ABIM reach new agreement on recertification.") Internists will be able to take the exam via computer, not via the Internet.

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