Russell K. McAllister, MD

Russell K. McAllister, M.D., FASA
TSA Newsletter Editor-in-Chief / Academics Editor
Clinical Professor and Chair of Anesthesiology
Baylor Scott & White Health Central Division
Texas A&M College of Medicine
Temple, TX

A Change in Process for Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology:
What does it mean for us?

For over 20 years, the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) has issued non-time limited certifications for their diplomates. This has required all diplomates certified during this time period to participate in the maintenance of certification process. There have been both major and minor changes in the processes during the past 20 years and we are facing additional changes that will go into effect in 2024.

The ABA is one of 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and is governed by their policies. In 2018, the ABMS created a commission that was charged with reviewing the continuing certification process while addressing key issues facing the ABMS Boards and their diplomates. This commission consisted of a variety of stakeholders including patients, practicing physicians, board certified diplomates, professional and state medical societies, and others who possess, use, or rely upon the board certification credential as an indicator of the diplomate’s professionalism and proficiency in our specialty’s knowledge and skills. In the spring of 2021, the ABMS held an 80-day public comment period where all diplomates and other stakeholders were given the opportunity to provide input and feedback on this issue. The commission has recently released their final report and are instituting certain changes within the maintenance of certification process. The commission received consistent feedback from the public users of our certificates that 10 years was too long of a cycle to assure them that diplomates are meaningfully engaged in processes to remain current in their knowledge and skills and that there is a need to demonstrate ongoing engagement in learning and new knowledge development. The ABA, as a member board, is adjusting as needed to meet the requirements of their parent organization.

The one area that will likely cause the biggest concern for our diplomates relates to the interval of the recertification process, which will be shortened from the current 10-year period to the new 5-year period beginning in 2024. The new standard of the ABMS requires this change. This change may initially appear daunting, however, we must recall that the changes implemented several years ago already require completion of continuing medical education and quality improvement activities every five years and also requires annual completion of the MOCA Minute questions.

Since the five-year interval for distinct portions of the process was already in place, the overall impact of this change will likely be fairly seamless. The shortening of the time period from ten to five years may be incentive for those diplomates who are approaching the end of their career to continue the process. There should be no overall change in what most diplomates must do to meet the requirements, as most of the newly implemented requirements were already previously put in place by the ABA.

Many will have questions about how this will be implemented. The ABA has provided some insight into the processes on their website. New certificates issued after January 1st of 2024 will be on the new 5-year cycle. However, if you have a 10-year certificate, you will begin the 5-year cycle when your current certificate expires.

As an example, if your current certificate expires on December 31st, 2023, you will receive a new 10-year certificate that will end on December 31st, 2033, since it will be issued prior to the new cycle having taken effect. However, if your certificate ends on the following year (December 31st, 2024), your new certificate will be on the new 5-year cycle and will begin on Jan 1st, 2025 and end on December 31st, 2030.

An additional added feature of the MOCA Minute process is the addition of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit for participation. Diplomates who participate in the process may now claim up to 10 hours of CME for their efforts, which takes a very small part of the sting out of the annual fees associated with the maintenance process. No additional cost is associated with this change.

In summary, this process should be relatively seamless, since most of the new requirements had already been put in place by the ABA with the last modifications of the processes a few years ago. Any change can be difficult, however, I believe that this one will not cause disruption from our current processes. ♦



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