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The American Board of Internal Medicine's finances and widespread dissatisfaction with its maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements have not shaken the organization’s faith in its policies or its president and chief executive officer, Richard Baron, MD, MACP.
The latest media salvo concerning the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) finances and widespread dissatisfaction with its maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements have not shaken the organization’s faith in its policies or its president and chief executive officer, Richard Baron, MD, MACP.
Patricia Conolly, MD“Rich understands what diplomates are going through in their day-to-day practices. We do think he’s the right person and the actions he’s taking are the right actions,” ABIM board secretary Patricia Conolly, MD, said in a recent telephone interview with Medical Economics. “I would say, on behalf of the board, we are proud of the work he is doing and we are fully supportive.”
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The board’s expression of confidence in Baron follows the most recent in a series of articles in Newsweek casting doubt on the value of MOC, the activities of the ABIM Foundation (of which Baron is also president) and the salaries paid to Baron and other ABIM officers.
The article, titled “Medical Mystery: Making Sense of ABIM’s Financial Report,” calls the ABIM’s latest financial filings with the Internal Revenue Service “a work of trickery,” and accuses the organization of trying to hide the total compensation paid to Baron and his predecessor, Christine Cassel, MD.
Medical Economics’ calls to ABIM board members seeking comment on the Newsweek article were referred to the ABIM communications office, which arranged the interview with Conolly.
In a May 22 e-mail to ABIM members Baron says, “we have never made any effort to obfuscate, hide or delay ABIM’s financial information,” and that “no one is trying to hide salaries.” He adds that his salary ($688,000 in compensation in 2014 and $55,000 in deferred compensation) is comparable to that of CEOs of similar-sized health-related organizations.
“I wrote the letter because I wanted to communicate directly with fellow internists about the focus of my and the ABIM board’s work, which is to make ABIM’s Maintenance of Certification program more meaningful for physicians who participate in it,” Baron said in an e-mail to Medical Economics. He added that he has received comments from thousands of ABIM diplomates in response. “While their support is gratifying, it remains crystal clear that MOC needs to change, and we are working to address that,” he said.
Conolly called the latest Newsweek article “off the mark.” Asked whether it might distract from attempts to reform the MOC process she said, “There are always multiple voices on any issue. But I think our focus is on the public and the medical societies and our diplomates, and we have to continue to reinforce the value of physicians keeping up in a rapidly changing medical profession.”
Regarding criticism of the ABIM Foundation, Conolly (who is not on the foundation’s board) said the ABIM board “is proud of the work the Foundation has done.” She cited the foundation’s work on the “Choosing Wisely” campaign, calling it “an extremely successful initiative.” The campaign, launched in 2012, is designed to help patients and doctors avoid duplication of tests and procedures and reduce the use of those that aren’t evidence-based.
Earlier this year Baron issued a public apology for the revisions to the MOC process the ABIM had announced in 2014, and said some of those revisions would be suspended or changed. Conolly said Baron’s statement was “a direct acknowledgment that the program as structured wasn’t right. And the engagement he’s bringing with the medical societies, the diplomates and the public is the right strategy to arrive at a program that will deliver value to the public and be value-added to our diplomates.”