Friday, January 12, 2018

Collecting Practicing Physician Perceptions of Board Certification

An important new survey was launched today to gather information needed to provide strong, data-backed, counter arguments to the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Osteopathic Association that continue to advertise their lucrative Maintenance of Certification® (MOC®) and Osteopathic Continuous Certification (OCC) products. Thanks to social media, this survey has the potential to be the largest and most authoritative of its kind, but not without your help.

As the MOC® controversy continues, I encourage all practicing all US ABMS and AOA Board-certified physicians to share the survey with your colleagues and include your names and email addresses (not required) to improve the survey's integrity.

Please take about 10 minutes of your time to complete this survey to provide us with the data necessary to defend practicing physicians at a national level against regulatory capture and third party intrusion into our profession.

-Wes

Saturday, January 06, 2018

In JAMA: MOC® Denounced

This week in JAMA, the ABIM and the entire ABMS member board structure received scathing repudiations in letters from Carlos J Cardenas, MD, President of the Texas Medial Association, and Bradley D. Freeman, MD from the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of St. Louis in Medicine. Here's a snippet from Dr. Cardena's letter:
As Dr Johnson pointed out, self-regulation is a core attribute of the learned professions. It encompasses the responsibility and authority to establish and enforce standards of education, training, and practice. Physicians routinely defend that responsibility and authority in advocating against the intrusion of all third parties (such as government, private insurers, or hospital administrators) into the practice of medicine.

However, as evidenced by their comments at the Texas Medical Association and American Medical Association House of Delegates and at the committee hearings on SB 1148, many physicians today simply do not acknowledge the certifying boards as “self.” They are, instead, profit driven organizations beholden to their own financial interests. The MOC process is too expensive, requires physicians to take too much time away from their patients and families, and, most importantly, lacks sufficient research to document the benefits to patient care. Many physicians say the information studied and tested has little applicability to their day-to-day practice.

Thus, the certifying boards, for all their talk of ensuring physician competence in a world of rapidly expanding scientific and clinical knowledge, are not “self.” In fact, they are one of the outsiders intruding into the practice of medicine.

Until and unless the boards acknowledge their position as outsiders and completely overhaul their processes, finances, and lack of transparency, physicians in Texas and across the nation will have no choice but to continue to seek statutory defenses against these third-party intrusions into the medical profession.
In reply, Dr. David H. Johnson, former member of the ABIM Board of Directors from 2007 to 2015 (and its Chair from 2013-2015) and author of the original JAMA article entitled "Maintenance of Certification and Texas SB 1148: A Threat to Professional Regulation" attempted to defend ABIM's actions. He parroted these tired ABIM talking points while referencing the ABIM website or blog:
  • 800,000 physicians "choose" ABMS Board certification (as if they have a choice if they want to get a job)
  • The reorganized their personnel to assure "more than 70% of current ABIM governance members spend more than half their time in clinical care." (as if that addresses the ABIM's actions)
  • How they "rolled out" every 2-year "Knowledge Check-Ins" (so we could be distracted from patient care even more frequently)
  • And most of all, assured physicians of ABIM's transparency by referring the reader to their website and "Guidestar Platinum designation" (which they pay for and create themselves), calling this the "good faith effort certifying boards are taking to address the concerns of Cardenas and Freeman."
We should not be surprised that a massive $2 billion dollar a year industry would do MANY things to protect its income stream and avoid responsibility for its actions against practicing US physicians. Here's a short list of EVEN MORE things Dr. Johnson failed to mention the ABIM and the ABMS member boards have done since the MOC controversy arose over five years ago to cover their tracks:
  • Sold the ABIM Foundation's luxury $2.3 million dollar condominium at a loss
  • Offshored millions of our dollars to the Cayman Islands
  • Authorized Cristine Cassel, MD a $1.2 million golden parachute as she left for the National Quality Forum in 2013 under Dr. Johnson's leadership
  • Said goodbye the Eric Holmboe, MD, the unlicensed physician "Medical Director" of the ABIM now works at the ACGME.
  • Changed the ABIM Foundation webpage to erase the fact that they had claimed it was created in 1999 for the purpose of "defining medical professionalism" while giving our money to their favorite institutions and causes without generating revenue for itself (other than investments).
  • Claimed that the ABIM "only" took $55 million from ABIM diplomates to create their ABIM Foundation from 1990-2007, when, in fact, they took well over $78 million for their personal and political purposes.
  • Fired their long-time auditor because of the tax fraud that has taken place for years.
  • Ended their contract with their long-time lobbyist (reported as a "consultant") after this improper expenditure for a 501(c)(3) organization was exposed.
  • Said goodbye to their much-loved felonious "Director of Test Security" that helped organize a "sting" operation against vulnerable residents attempting to study for their board examination and closed his division in the organization
  • The ABMS member boards are making even more changes now, creating a whole new "Vision Commission" that plans to spend countless hours creating the next bureaucratic boondoggle for themselves at our expense.
  • Thanks to the entire ABIM Board of Directors' lack of leadership and oversight, the ABIM is likely insolvent (video).


Dr. Johnson should know all of these points, but chose to ignore these details in his reply letter in JAMA. He would likely claim he was constrained to add these points by a word count given to each respondent. Yet by failing to mention the past and current financial and political transgressions of the ABIM that he helped direct, Dr. Johnson, the ABIM, and all ABMS member boards represent the antithesis of what credible professional self-regulation should embody and should remain responsible for their actions going forward.

-Wes

Sunday, December 31, 2017

ABMS/ABIM MOC Controversy: 2017 Year-in-Review

As we say goodbye to 2017, we say goodbye to a year of unprecedented exposure of the interconnected workings of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and its member organizations, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Medical Association (ABMS), the American Hospital Association (AHA), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the Council of Medical Subspecialty Societies (CMSS)  that continue to ignore the corruption inside their walls.

Money does that to people. We should not be surprised.

In keeping with the reviews from 2015 and 2016, here is the wrap-up of some of  key events concerning Maintenance of Certification® (MOC®) for 2017:

4 January 2017 - Richard Baron, MD and Clarence H. Braddock,  III, MD publish a promotional article for ABIM in the New England Journal of Medicine and given the comments, probably wish they hadn't.

20 January 2017 - Stationary sidebars can be revealing: The interconnected conflicts of interest with University of California, San Francisco, MOC®, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the ABIM/ABIM Foundation are disclosed.

6 February 2017 - Practicing Physicians of America, Inc is born and requests IRS investigation of the ABIM at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

6 February 2017 - TeamHealth eats the Department of Justice's $60 million judgment for Medicare fraud, but is swallowed quietly by Blackstone Group.

17 March 2017 - Federal judge dismissed ABIM's copyright infringement suit against Puerto Rican Dr. Salas Rushford. Salas Rushford's countersuit to proceed.

21 March 2017 - Wallstreet lawyer attempts to attack the integrity of the investigative reporting on this blog concerning the ABIM's Director of Test Security. Rebuttal appears in Pennsylvania Medicine Magazine and becomes the most read blog post of 2017 thanks to the Streisand Effect.

31 March 2017 - ABIM announces their much-anticipated "modifications" to their MOC program, gets it wrong again.

3 April 2017 - State legislative anti-MOC® battles continue in Tennessee

12 April 2017 - Elizabeth's Rosenthal's book An American Sickness appears on the New York Times best seller list, includes reference to the ABIM $2.3 million condo story.

29 April 2017 - The state legislative battle continued in Texas.

3 May 2017 - Journal of the American Medical Association devotes an entire issue to conflicts of interests in medicine, but forgets to disclose its own.

26 June 2017 - Antitrust suit against American Osteopathic Association is allowed to proceed to the discovery phase

30 June 2017 - Anti-MOC legislation in Texas passes with some concessions, goes into effect 1 Jan 2018.

3 July 2017 - Practicing Physicians of America, Inc starts fund drive to assist with anti-MOC legislative efforts.

1 August 2017 - Research letter detailing the costs and fees for Maintenance of Certification® appears in JAMA.

6 Aug 2017 - ABMS responds to JAMA article on MOC® costs as "crucial to sustain and evolve."
18 October 2017 - Why the IRS needs to investigate the ABIM and its numerous corporate conflicts of interest.

11 October 2017 - Ohio legislature receive my testimony and an evidence packet on anti-MOC House Bill 273 regarding the corruption of the ABIM before the Health Committee.

31 October 2017 - ABIM joins the Human Diagnosis project

4 December 2017 - A key meeting of State Medical Societies, ABMS and ABIM leadership, and numerous medical specialty societies convenes to discuss problems with MOC®; admits the MOC® process is "problematic."

13 December 2017 - ABMS and "partners" from other ACGME organizations including the AAMC and CCMS, alongside some select medical specialty societies, announce new "Vision Commission" to re-brand MOC®. More coverup seems inevitable.

13 December 2017 - Federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois dismisses the antitrust suit by the AAPS against the ABMS using a curious timeline, but leaves a door open to "file an amended complaint that cures the deficiencies discussed in this Memorandum Opinion."

* * *

Today is New Year's Eve. Whether ABIM is solvent or not is uncertain. We will likely have to wait until May of 2018 to know for sure, since 501(c)(3) corporations can file a request to delay publishing of their Form 990 for Fiscal year 2017 until then. But the financial trend toward collapse of the ABIM and ABIM Foundation, legal troubles, and the unannounced closure of divisions within the ABIM, like the Division of Test Security and the Division of Policy in January 2017 give some hints to what is (and has been) going on there.

Bit by bit, real clinic doctors are making a difference in fighting MOC®. I encourage all readers of this blog to consider joining or donating to Practicing Physicians of America or to become certified by the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons to help continue this fight.

Together practicing physicians can make 2018 a successful and prosperous anti-MOC® new year for those of us on the front line of patient care.

-Wes

Thursday, December 28, 2017

AAPS To File Amended AntiTrust Suit Against ABMS

From the January, 2018 AAPS Newsletter:
AAPS Has Leave to Amend ABMS Anti-Trust Suit

The federal court in the Northern District of Illinois has granted leave to AAPS to provide more detail as to how Maintenance of Certification (MOC®) harms patients in AAPS v. American Board of Medical Specialties, 14-cv-2705-ARW (N.D. Ill. Dec. 13, 2017). Because antitrust laws exist to protect consumers, not competitors, the court is requiring further specificity as to the harm to patients that is allegedly inflicted by MOC®.

In addition, the court wonders whether the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and other MOC-related organizations have any control over insurance companies to require MOC® as a condition of participating in their plans. To the extent anyone is aware of a specific relationship between ABMS and insurance companies, or a mechanism by which ABMS may have some influence with insurers, then please let AAPS know.*

AAPS plans to add to its allegations ways in which representations made by ABMS and board-certifying societies harm physicians who decline to participate in MOC®. (emphasis mine) In the past some board-certifying societies have posted disparaging statements about physicians who do not waste the substantial time and money on remaining current with onerous MOC® requirements. For now, the court considers some of these pro-MOC® statements to be mere opinion, which is not actionable, but AAPS can submit stronger examples of unfair disparagement with its upcoming amended complaint.

This legal struggle is far from over, and AAPS observes that earlier this year a district court in New Jersey held there is a valid claim for an antitrust violation by how membership in the American Osteopathic Association is required as a condition of maintaining certification by D.O.s.

The AAPS case was initially filed in New Jersey in 2013 (https://tinyurl.com/ycndp3rx), and the courts have not acted until now, except to grant an ABMS motion to change the venue to Chicago. In dismissing the case as pled, the Court focused on the “voluntary” nature of MOC®. It had not been demonstrated that ABMS has sufficient market power to restrain trade, decrease output, or raise prices. “Antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors” (https://tinyurl.com/yapc4no5). Patients can supposedly find another doctor, or another hospital — somewhere.
-Wes

* AAPS should look no further than Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan's disenrollment of Meg Edison, MD from several insurance panels and then sending her patients letters about the disenrollment solely on the basis of her failing to pay her Maintenanance of Certification fee. Their near instantaneous electronic collusion with an ABMS member board (American Board of Pediatrics) is damning and is facilitated by the for-profit wholly-owned subsidiary of ABMS, ABMS Solutions, LLC (domiciled in Atlanta, GA) selling Board certification status to third parties. AAPS should also be interested that Margaret O'Kane of the National Committee on Quality Assurance (that sets credentialing standards for insurers) is also a public member of the ABMS Board of Directors.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Curious Timeline of the AAPS vs ABMS AntiTrust Ruling

It was almost Christmas, and you could hear the collective sigh of relief rising from the leadership at the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The antitrust suit brought against them by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) was dismissed without prejudice on 13 December 2017 with one small caveat, "AAPS will be permitted an opportunity to file an amended complaint that cures the deficiencies discussed in this Memorandum Opinion."

Whether the legal team of the AAPS will decide to amend the complaint remains to be seen, but much has been learned about the anti-competitive nature of the ABMS Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program since the time that suit was filed. No longer is the coordination of effort of the MOC program limited to an arrangement between the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospital Organizations and the ABMS member boards, but its tentacles extend to most of the membership organizations of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the huge medical publishing companies (Wolter Kluwer and Reed Elsevier), many of the state medical societies like the Massachusetts Medical Society and their NEJM Group, the IPC Hospitalist Company (later purchased by TeamHealth, that was later bought by the mysterious Blackstone Group after the DOJ found them guilty of Medicare fraud), the international medical community in far-away places like Qatar and Venice, Italy (which have separate "standards" for Board certification), and even influence on our own local state legislatures.

This is because we now understand that nearly 20% of our nation's economy (and much of our current academic medical system, each with their lucrative medical subspecialty societies) depends on ABMS MOC program succeeding. MOC is one of the critical keys to unlocking the data mine of physician behavior, purchasing, and influence via a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement that supplies the digital data fuel for the economic engine of health care today. An alternative to MOC without such an agreement would hurt this digital gravy train.

But working physicians subject to the demands of MOC saw the program for what it was: a sickening power play using threats and intimidation to fund the ACGME monopoly and the ABMS Member Board largess at their expense.

So those same working physicians took it upon themselves to start their own competing board, the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons. They took their concerns to state legislators and won a few key battles. By doing so, they exposed how insurance companies and hospital systems didn't really like that competition. They especially didn't like how physicians were coordinating their efforts. And somehow, along the way, those efforts have now piqued the interest of a few lawyers from the Federal Trade Commission.

But the inner political workings of our court system need scrutiny, too.

Recall that the 2013 AAPS suit was moved from New Jersey to the Northern District of Illinois (the AMA's back yard) in 2014 at request of lawyers from the AMA. Once there, the case docket had plenty of activity until January 2015, but then laid dormant for years.

This did not stop the ABMS from declaring victory in the case on their website October 2, 2017. How did they know? More than two months before the Memorandum Opinion was issued by Judge Andrea R. Wood, it seems the ABMS knew something the AAPS lawyers did not. The court docket also revealed how the court dismissed the case before the Memorandum Opinion could be reviewed by AAPS attorneys. Perhaps this is usual and customary behavior by the courts, but given the gravity of the ruling and its implications to working physicians nationwide, working doctors want to know how the ABMS leadership knew of the case's outcome before the ruling was even issued. Do the tentacles of MOC extend to the courts, too?

While the ruling is disappointing to most working US physicians, all is not lost. Not by a long shot.

Thanks to the work of a committed group of working physicians who have raised the interest of federal regulators, MOC suddenly appears "problematic" for the ACGME. A new "Vision Commission" for "Continuous Board Certification" is being organized by the ABMS comprised of the same cohort of conflicted medical bureaucrats that created MOC in the first place.

Look at that "planning group's" membership:
Nowhere in this list of "planners" are real frontline working physicians. And given this, nowhere is there likely to be any real change to the MOC system going forward.

Lipstick on a pig by another name is still a pig. And no matter what this commission has planned as they delay and distract from the corruption that has occurred with MOC for the past 30 years when they issue their "findings" in 2019,  MOC will remain a corrupt, broken educational product with serious conflicts of interest that needs to end now, not later.

-Wes

Friday, December 15, 2017

ABIM Promotes Nurse Practitioner As Quality Physician

Things must be really bad for the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).


Since the organization has completely lost the trust of frontline working physicians, they are now now turning to nurse practitioners to promote their certification products - all at real working physician expense!


Spend a moment and watch the good "doctor and nurse practitioner" Susan Apold, PhD, ANP promote nurse practitioners as equals to physicians on national TV:



Caveat emptor.

-Wes

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's Official: MOC® is Dead. Let the Cover-up Begin

It's official: MOC is dead.

You heard that correctly doctors, the American Board of Medical Specialties' Maintenance of Certification® (MOC®) program is over, finished, kaput.

The one thing that resonated loud and clear from the December 4th meeting in Chicago of the multiple specialty societies and state medical societies that were in attendance was "the current MOC® process is problematic."

But don't get too excited.

In a remarkably Orwellian twist of fate, a new "vision initiative" to reinvent "Continuing Board Certification" was just announced by the original MOC® creators serving as the "Planning Committee."
The Planning Committee is comprised of representatives from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), Coalition for Physician Accountability, Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS), Council on Medical Education (CME) of the American Medical Association (AMA), the public, and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

Jo Buyske, MD, ABMS/ABS
Sandra Carson, MD, CMSS/ACOG
Joyce Dubow, Public Member
Jack Evans, Public Member
Larry Green, MD, ABMS/ABFM
Thomas Hess, JD, ABMS
Lynne Kirk, MD, AMA CME
Graham McMahon, MD, ACCME
Thomas Nasca, MD, ACGME
John Prescott, MD, AAMC & Coalition
Stephen Wasserman, MD, ABMS/ABAI
Steven Weinberger, MD, CMSS/ACP
Norman B. Kahn, Jr., MD, CMSS, ex-officio
Lois Margaret Nora, MD, ABMS, ex-officio
You just can't make this stuff up.

We now see the ABMS and their sycophants at the ACGME, AMA, American College of Physicians, CMSS, and American College of Surgeons taking nominations for 21 to 25 individuals to serve on the planning Commission. This Commission will "bring together multiple stakeholders to assess the current state of continuing board certification and vision its framework for the future. ... Specialty societies, state medical societies, academic medical centers, hospitals and health systems, other health care systems, consumer organizations, patient advocacy organizations, ABMS member boards, and other groups are encouraged to submit nominations."

This is not rebranding.

This is not just a "pivot" to a new model.

This is an attempted cover-up.

Unless and until there is a full investigation of wrongdoing of these institutions regarding MOC®, including, but not limited to, potential tax fraud, misuse of physician testing fees for personal use, civil liberties violations, strongman tactics, and even possible racketeering, the current "vision initiative" should not be allowed to go forward, lest it happen again.

After all, medical professionalism demands accountability and many, many doctors want to see justice served.

-Wes

Addendum: Nice to see at least one medical society voiced concerns regarding MOC at the December meeting.