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ABIM needs to look in the mirror when discussing lack of trust


Maintenance of certification angst is growing and the purveyors of this onerous exercise have discovered the root of the problem: the patient.

Maintenance of certification angst is growing and the purveyors of this onerous exercise have discovered the root of the problem: the patient. 


Related: ABIM touts certification to restore patient trust


Yes, you read that correctly. The reason physicians need to spend thousands of dollars to take a test on things they often don’t encounter is because patients simply don’t trust them anymore. 

At least that’s what the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) told attendees of this year’s American College of Physicians conference in San Diego in March. Richard Baron, MD, president and chief executive officer of the ABIM and its foundation (remind me again why a test-taking organization has a foundation?) stood before a crowded room of internists and unveiled the reason behind this distrust: Fake news.

Again, you are reading this correctly. Projected on a large screen next to Baron were references to presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green massacre” and Washington, D.C.-based Comet Pizza, the alleged home of a child-trafficking ring. 

Both examples-neither one based on fact-were cited as examples of misinformation that “led to the loss of valued institutions’ credibility.” Institutions like healthcare … and physicians. I’m being serious-there were other people in the room.


Popular online: Top 10 challenges facing physicians in 2017


Bottom line, according to the ABIM: Patients no longer trust their doctors. (Spoiler alert: They trust the internet, word of mouth and their friends instead). Luckily the ABIM is here with a sure-fire solution. By renewing your board certification every 10 years-or through its new two-year option -you will get an “unimpeachable marker of quality and credibility,” according to Baron.

Next: Blocking out all the noise


That’s right. By renewing their board certification, physicians can block out all the noise surrounding patients and provide them a guaranteed way to restore their trust. With a piece of paper saying you took a test. A test patients don’t understand or rarely even ask about. 


In case you missed it: Physicians take MOC fight to state level


The ABIM continues to ignore a larger issue: the rapidly eroding trust of its membership. Following Baron’s sales pitch, audience members asked questions about ABIM’s executive salaries, spending habits and the $56 million the ABIM “transferred” to the foundation. As one doc put it, “ABIM spends a lot of money. It’s not your money, it’s [physicians’] money.”

Baron coolly deflected the numbers by stating that the ABIM’s finances are transparent (he’s right; check their website), and stated “we stand on our record at this time.”


Further reading: The man behind MOC defends the program against critics


Doctors are questioning the ABIM’s credibility on a regular basis and at least five more states are considering “anti-MOC” legislation-dropping board-certification as a requirement for things like hospital admitting privileges and insurer participation. The ABIM would be well-advised to do more than stand idly by. 

Dr. Baron, physicians are using “real news” to criticize your organization, its work and its value. If you are going to point a finger at patient trust as the main culprit hurting physicians, remember the saying that there are then four fingers pointing back at you. 

Keith L. Martin is editorial director for Medical Economics. You can follow him on Twitter at
@klmartin_ubm. Do you have trust in the ABIM and maintenance of certification? Tell us at medec.com.

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