When you hear “maintenance of certification,” does it make you cringe? If so, why?

unhappy doctor looking at paperwork

If you’re like many of the participants in a recent poll, you may find that maintaining your certifications through the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program is too expensive, time-consuming or complicated.

While physicians are in general agreement that they should keep their knowledge of the latest diagnostic and treatment guidelines updated, the MOC certification process is viewed as overly burdensome. The program, sponsored by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), involves certification through one of 24 medical specialty boards or one of the specialty boards of the American Osteopathic Association.

Sermo (www.sermo.com), a popular network for MDs and DOs, asked more than 1,000 physicians what factors make the process “so onerous.”

Participants could give more than one response. As you can see, opinions ran the gamut:

Too expensive 64%
Prefer focus to be content, not revenue 55%
Too time-consuming 53%
Shouldn’t be tied with maintaining board certification 49%
Too complicated 48%
Not relevant to daily practice 42%
Currently using self-study 35%
Nothing – MOC works well 4%

Despite some negatives, the ABMS member boards had certified more than 800,000 U.S. physicians, and more than 450,000 physicians were participating in MOC, as of March 2013, according to the ABMS website (www.abms.org). The average annual fee charged for MOC participation in January 2013 was approximately $300.

Exam fees are another matter. For example, the website for the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation cites exam fees of $1,395 for Certification Part I, $1,910 for Certification Part II, $745 for Maintenance of Certification and $1,800 for Subspecialty: Brain Injury Medicine – among other exams.

The American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery provides a “MOC Fee Schedule” on its website, citing a nonrefundable exam application fee of $350 (required every 10 years), a nonrefundable late registration fee of $200, a $750 fee payable when a candidate receives approval for the exam and $750 for each re-examination.

However, ABMS studies have shown that both patients and physicians recognize the value of MOC. Many who responded to the consumer survey said that, if they found out that a physician has not maintained certification, they “would look for a new one or cease referring that physician.”

In the ABMS physician study, specialists saw the benefits of “identifying areas for improvement in practice, providing valuable patient feedback and generating high-quality performance data.”