ABIM research suggests that doctors who maintain board certification provide better patient care

1. Physicians who maintained Board Certification were associated with improved Health Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) score.

2. The majority of physicians in the study maintained their Board Certification from 1991 to 2012.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: The value of the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program has been contested as to whether it serves as a relevant marker of physician quality. The authors of this study aimed to evaluate whether physician MOC status related to performance on the HEDIS process measures. In general, the ABIM research suggested that doctors who maintain Board Certification provide better patient care. This study has several limitations. First, as patient care was not directly observed, it is possible that unobserved patient, physician, and practice characteristics could confound these results. Further, the study did not evaluate the potential impact of physician practice settings on quality of patient care and likelihood to maintain Board Certification.

Click to read the study in Annals of Internal Medicine

Relevant Reading: Provider Board Certification Status and Practice Patterns in Total Knee Arthroplasty.

In-Depth [retrospective cohort]: The authors compared HEDIS process measures annually between physicians that did not did not maintain certification 20 years after their initial certification. They then assessed the annual percentage of these physicians’ Medicare patients that met HEDIS standards. Specifically, they looked at the percentage that met each of the 5 HEDIS annual or biennial standards, as well as those that met 3 HEDIS diabetes standards. Data was analyzed utilizing a propensity score-matching algorithm. A total of 1260 physicians were ultimately included in the study, where 786 maintained their certification and 474 did not. Regarding the HEDIS outcomes, the regression-adjusted differences in adherence of the patients of physicians who maintained certification compared to those who did not were 4.2 percentage points for semiannual hemoglobin A1c testing (95% CI, 2.0 to 6.5 percentages points; p < 0.001). Further, with respect to annual LDL cholesterol testing, the difference was 2.3 percentage points (CI, 0.6 to 4.1 percentage points; p = 0.008).

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