Why fight this MOC fight?

Doctors everywhere, I implore you. I know you – I am one of you – and I know your nature. We want to soothe, to placate, to moderate pain.

This current MOC fight is anathema to many of you. In many of your minds it is too hard, too dangerous, and too disruptive. What is most disturbing is that some of you think that it is unnecessary or even pointless. Please let me show you why this is not true. Indulge my extemporation, so that I may show you why this is critical to our future.

Why it is necessary to fight the Maintenance of Certification program:

Many of you may be asking why it is necessary to fight this fight. Why not just go through the MOC modules, earn your points, pay your fees, and be done with it? This is not a money fight (we will discuss this later). This is a fight for principles. You are a professional, and maintaining your status as a professional requires you to be up to date on the key elements of your area of expertise. We already face requirements placed by our medical boards for continuing medical education. I personally could not face my patients if I were not informed of current advances in medicine, particularly in my field. It is part of being a doctor and a professional.

The ABMS and ABIM would have you believe that patients are demanding that their doctors undergo some artificial trials in order to determine that they are competent, because they have no other way of deciding if their doctor is good. I have more faith in the abilities of the average patient. Patients have a sense of the competence of you as their doctor, and they are able to ask questions to proscam-alert-1024x788be your knowledge. They also have the freedom (for now) to go to a different doctor if they are not impressed.

The ABMS and ABIM are playing on your underlying insecurity that you do not know everything, but what they are implying is that you need their help to prove that you know anything. They are using your inner fears to their advantage. I can tell you with certainty, that with everything you have gone through, you are more than competent, you are very knowledgeable, and you do not need more and more certifications on your wall to prove that fact.

Continuing medical education is a good thing – that we can agree on. But beyond the requirements of the medical boards and your own personal search for knowledge we do not need any new programs.

Why it is necessary to fight MOC now:

This fight is insidious. The people who are thrusting this upon us are financially enmeshed in this system and do not have your best interests in mind. This fight needs to come to a head now, because the majority of the regulations that will hinder us in the future have yet to be written.

The passage of MACRA, which was the ‘SGR fix’, brought in new concepts for physician pay. Now we will be paid in one of two ways, the Alternative Payment Models (APMs), or Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

If you are part of a larger system or in some specialties, you may get paid as part of a lump sum through the APM. God only knows what crumbs will be left of the lump sum after the hospital system takes its part.

For others who will be in the MIPS system, your pay will be determined by (straight from the cms web site):

  • Quality
  • Resource use
  • Clinical practice improvement
  • Meaningful use of certified EHR technology

Note that we have the old MOC part 4, practice improvement, which was supposedly put to rest, rising like a zombie to stalk us again. And we are also to be judged on ‘quality’, which no one can seem to define. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously defined obscenity with the phrase ‘I know it when I see it’. This is about the best we can do for defining medical quality. The real obscenity today is the ABMS/ABIM system.

What about the money?

I said before that it is not about the money, but it is. Certainly to the non-practicing bureaucrats at the ABMS/ABIM it is about the money, because they do not do anything productive on their own. They have to take your money to pay for their own salaries. And it is your hard earned money. To some of you it may seem a pittance, but to others these are large sums. Please take pity on your fellow doctors who may not be in as good of a financial position. The greedy overlords of the certification scam are filleting us to obtain their seven figure salaries. I wonder how often they take call.


Physicians everywhere: You are good people, but you are doing evil by your complacency.

I am writing this to every physician who is frustrated with the certification system that we have in place and that is becoming increasingly encoded into our laws. We have reached a crossroads in the evolution of health care in America. We, as physicians, have been under assault literally for decades.

We have suffered degradations and loss of prestige as an army of administrators has constructed a fortress of policy around the hospitals and issued ‘guidelines’ which now are treated as treatment mandates for our patients. And, I am very sorry to say, many of us have been complicit in this tragedy.

Some physicians have been overtly complicit by taking non-practicing administrative positions and dictating not only how we should care for our patients, but also implying that we are not competent to do so. Many others have been silently complicit, as we have sat by and let the rot set in. As the great theologian and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

We are now subjected to MOC in order to somehow prove ourselves, when by the very act of treating our patients and looking up information to do so shows that we are dedicated to maintaining our profession. Our profession: that is what is being called into doubt and what many bureaucrats would like to do away with. Instead of dedicated professionals seeking out the best treatments for our patients, they would prefer us to be interchangeable widgets.

Enough! It is time for ACTION.

Our leaders have abandoned us, and it is not enough to moan and complain to your colleagues. I have faith that you will continue to keep your knowledge up to date, but it is time to STOP ALL MOC ACTIVITY. DO NOT PAY ANOTHER PENNY TO THE ABMS, ABIM, or whatever specialty board you fall under.

CALL the hospital executives. ASK about the bylaws. PROPOSE changes to any language regarding maintenance of certification, and make sure the NBPAS is included as an acceptable alternative. DEMAND that these things be discussed at the hospital board meetings.

To anyone who is grandfathered in, or beyond the last needed certification, you are HURTING MEDICINE if you do not act. You need to help the people behind you who may be taking care of you when you are sick and dying.

Nelson Mandela said “We fought injustice wherever we found it, no matter how large, or how small, and we fought injustice to preserve our own humanity.” This is precisely how we need to shape our fight.

We must take action. Signing petitions is not enough. You should call your hospital administrators on a regular basis and let them know that the physicians are not happy.

Burnout is at an all-time high, and good men and women are leaving the field of medicine in record numbers. The surveys show that it is bureaucracy and maintenance of certification that is driving good people away. We must put a stop to this. Do not hang your head and say that the fight is lost, because the very future of American medicine is at stake.

The administrators of every hospital should be harassed until every single hospital in this country accepts alternate board certification rather than the ABMS monopoly.

Be brave and act boldly. I will leave you with a last quote to remember when you have doubts. “You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.” – Aung San Suu Kyi