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ABMS Hosts National Policy Forum: Aligning Maintenance of Certification and Healthcare IT

CHICAGO--The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recently convened healthcare thought leaders to begin discussions on how to align healthcare information technology (HIT) and ABMS Maintenance of Certification® (ABMS MOC®), as the subject of its second National Policy Forum.

Improving the quality of patient care is a key priority of both ABMS MOC and HIT, so determining the best way to align them makes sense, said keynote speaker David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, national coordinator for health information technology in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The government’s goal is not just the adoption of an electronic health record (EHR) system, but the use of technology to improve healthcare quality for the American people,” said Dr. Blumenthal. “We want to work with physicians to explore ways in which healthcare IT and ABMS Member Board certification can be coordinated – it’s that synergy that will make both more valuable.”

“The intersection of healthcare information technology and MOC is a compelling topic, and we felt it was important for ABMS to initiate this national conversation,” said Kevin B. Weiss, MD, ABMS president and CEO. “There are very few things that have as great a capacity to revolutionize physician performance as healthcare IT.”

Drs. Blumenthal and Weiss spoke to representatives of ABMS’ 24 Member Boards March 16, 2010, in Arlington, Va. Other panelists addressed specific ways that HIT is being used to measure physician performance and support continuous professional development, and could be integrated into ABMS MOC. ABMS MOC was created by ABMS and its Member Boards to promote physician commitment to lifelong learning and competency in a specialty and/or subspecialty.

“With increasing health information technologies available, there seem to be some interesting partnerships that could form here,” said Eric S. Holmboe, MD, American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) senior vice president for quality research and academic affairs. “There are some real opportunities for ABMS and its Member Boards to work with some of experts in the healthcare IT field.” Dr. Holmboe coordinated the forum along with Gary J. Becker, MD, a member of the ABMS Board of Directors and executive director of the American Board of Radiology (ABR).

The U.S. government is promising financial incentives to healthcare providers who demonstrate “meaningful use” of HIT, meaning the technology should actually improve patient care, not just be implemented for technology’s sake. Although criteria to define “meaningful use” are still in development, Dr. Blumenthal noted they will be based on five dimensions: improving public health; improving quality and safety; engaging patients and families; coordinating care; and providing privacy and security. These dimensions overlap with the six core competencies that are continually measured through ABMS MOC: patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communications skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice.

Speakers noted that the implications for combining HIT – which provides the capacity to collect, store, retrieve and transfer information readily – and MOC are huge.

“Healthcare IT tracks nicely and links with MOC,” said Dr. Becker. “With the information provided by some types of healthcare IT, you’ve got the basis for practice-based learning and improvement, which is what MOC is all about.”

“I think EHRs are transforming quality and safety, and I believe we should think about how to revolutionize lifelong learning for physicians,” said David W. Baker, MD, MPH, Michael A. Gertz professor of medicine and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago. “Healthcare IT enables the rapid dissemination of new knowledge. Professionalism is a core value – everything begins with this. Healthcare IT is just a way for us to be able to achieve that goal.”

For example, computerized clinical decision support tools help doctors determine the best treatment based on a patient’s test results and symptoms, which not only improves patient care, but contributes to the physician’s continual learning.

Because they systemically collect data and evaluate outcomes, registries can identify gaps, identify physician needs for improvement and document ongoing improvement and should be a component of a healthcare system that promotes lifelong learning for physicians, noted Richard Gliklich, MD, president of Outcome Sciences, a provider of patient registries based in Cambridge, Mass. Existing registries are being used for the fulfillment of some MOC activities – as is the case for the American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS) – and also could be designed specifically to fulfill other MOC requirements, he noted.

Radiology was a pioneer in HIT, using it to track patients through ordering, scheduling and reporting as well as for digital imaging and integrating systems, noted David Avrin, MD, PhD, professor of clinical radiology and vice chairman for Informatics at the Department of Radiology at the University of California at San Francisco. It provides a tremendous opportunity for radiologists and other specialists to work together to reduce inappropriate use of imaging, he said.

From a governmental perspective, HIT provides the opportunity for MOC to fill in quality measurement gaps and to control costs through use of tools such as clinical decision support to reduce unnecessary tests, said Michael T. Rapp, MD, JD, director of the Quality Measurement and Health Assessment Group, Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

About ABMS

For over 75 years, American Board of Medical Specialties is the medical organization overseeing physician certification in the United States. It assists its 24 Member Boards in their efforts to develop and implement educational and professional standards for the evaluation and certification of physician specialists. ABMS Member Boards provide physician certification information to ABMS for its certification verification service programs. ABMS is recognized by the key healthcare credentialing accreditation entities as a primary equivalent source of board certification data for medical specialists. Patients can visit or call toll-free 1-866-ASK-ABMS to see if their physician is board certified by an ABMS Member Board. For more information about ABMS visit or call (312) 436-2600.

The 24 Member Boards that make up the ABMS Board Enterprise, cover over 145 medical specialties and subspecialties, and include: American Board of Allergy and Immunology, American Board of Anesthesiology, American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery, American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Emergency Medicine, American Board of Family Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine, American Board of Medical Genetics, American Board of Neurological Surgery, American Board of Nuclear Medicine, American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Board of Ophthalmology, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, American Board of Otolaryngology, American Board of Pathology, American Board of Pediatrics, American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Board of Plastic Surgery, American Board of Preventive Medicine, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, American Board of Radiology, American Board of Surgery, American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and American Board of Urology.