2017 Outstanding Education Collaboration Award

By Richard J. Baron, MD, MACP, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and ABIM Foundation; and Graham McMahon, MD, MMSc, President and CEO, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) 

We are honored the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions recognized the collaborative work of our two organizations — the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) and the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) — for its 2017 Award for Outstanding Educational Collaboration.

Our work is an outcome of responding to the needs and requests of physicians and continuing medical education (CME) providers to simplify the integration of Maintenance of Certification (MOC) and accredited CME. As accrediting and certifying bodies, we recognized an opportunity to allow educational activities to count for multiple requirements, thus reducing burden, allowing more flexibility for physicians and educators, and promoting lifelong learning and improvement. We realized that the more we can harmonize our requirements, the more we can nurture physicians’ passion for learning and optimize the value of physician education to continually improve patient care.

Announced in August 2015, the goal of our collaboration is to expand the number and diversity of accredited CME activities that also count for ABIM MOC points, and to streamline the process for registering CME activities in ABIM's MOC program. This ongoing collaboration is the first between ACCME and a specialty certifying board.

A Simpler, Unified Process

To achieve our goals, ABIM and ACCME staff and leadership educated each other about their respective systems and requirements. Each organization made modifications to its system to support the goals of the collaboration.

The result combines lifelong learning requirements into one streamlined process for physicians and also simplifies the process for CME providers.

Together we identified opportunities for simplification and alignment:

  • CME providers are no longer required to submit applications to ABIM for review and approval. Instead, accredited CME providers use one unified shared system to record information about CME and ABIM MOC activities.
  • Accredited CME providers use the ACCME Program and Activity Reporting System (PARS) to register activities for ABIM’s MOC program. All accredited CME providers in the ACCME System already use PARS to enter data about each of their CME activities.
  • As part of this registration process, providers attest to compliance with requirements for the ABIM Medical Knowledge Assessment Recognition Program and agree to comply with ACCME and ABIM requirements for participation.
  • The ABIM MOC CME registration process is available for all CME providers in the ACCME System, including state-accredited providers, providers directly accredited by the ACCME, and providers that have received Joint Accreditation™ for Interprofessional Continuing Education.
  • This collaboration offers additional choices but no new ACCME requirements for CME providers. CME providers in the ACCME System have the option — but are not required — to offer accredited CME that meets ABIM's MOC program requirements and to submit activity and participant completion data through PARS to ABIM.

Responsibilities and Contributions

We built our collaboration on the values of interprofessional collaborative practice: mutual respect, trust, effective communication and recognition of each other’s expertise. While each organization has specific roles and responsibilities, all major decisions are made jointly. Each organization is crucial to the success of the collaboration: ABIM contributes its expertise with certification and its relationship with board certified internists and internal medicine subspecialists; ACCME brings its expertise with accreditation and its relationship with the CME community.

Staff from both organizations, including executive leadership, participate in the collaboration. The collaboration involves most of the staff of ACCME (approximately 20 people) and approximately 20 ABIM staff members. In addition, from an outcome perspective, this collaboration would not have been successful without the support of the 41 ACCME Recognized Accreditors (state medical societies), and the accredited CME community — approximately 1,900 organizations and the individuals responsible for planning and presenting CME in those organizations.

Continuous Improvement

We continue to seek feedback from the CME provider community and ABIM Board Certified physicians and to identify and implement improvements, based on this input.

Evaluation tool: The ACCME and ABIM share the expectation that accredited providers evaluate the impact of their activities on learners’ knowledge, strategies, skills, performance, and/or patient outcomes. This publication, which is on the ACCME website and is included in the updated ABIM MOC program guide, includes examples of evaluation approaches that CME providers can use in activities that count for ABIM MOC.

CME Finder™: In August 2016, ACCME launched an improved web-based tool, CME Finder (www.CMEFinder.org), on the ACCME website. This tool provides information for each accredited CME activity that is registered for ABIM MOC credit, and it helps physicians locate lifelong learning activities that are relevant to their practice.

Audit strategy: In lieu of reviewing and approving all activities, providers submitting CME activities for MOC points attest to meeting requirements for ABIM’s Medical Knowledge Assessment Recognition Program and agree to participate in an audit of their activities.  

Making a Difference

The collaboration is achieving its goal of expanding the number and diversity of CME activities that count for ABIM MOC. In the first 18 months, more than 200 accredited CME providers registered about 6,000 activities that count for ABIM MOC in PARS; more than 163,000 learner completion records have been reported in PARS, totaling more than 1.2 million MOC points. More than 2,600 activities, currently available for CME that also counts for ABIM MOC, are listed in CME Finder.

CME providers have reported that the process enables them to better meet the needs of their learners and has motivated them to offer more innovative, interactive activities.

The collaboration between the ACCME and ABIM has enabled the American College of Cardiology to offer dual CME/MOC credit for participation in a number of its live and online educational activities, including the Annual Scientific Session. This is a huge benefit to ACC’s members who are registered ABIM diplomates.” —Ellen L. Cohen, Cert.Ed., Dip.Ed., CHCP, Director, Accreditation, Compliance & MOC, ACC

Building on Success

Building on the success of our collaboration, we plan to recognize more accredited CME in spring 2017 in support of ABIM’s MOC program. In addition to Medical Knowledge activities, physicians will be able to earn MOC points for quality improvement activities and blended activities that earn both Medical Knowledge and quality improvement MOC points. The expansion aims to encourage CME providers to continue to innovate and create educational activities that blend medical knowledge and encourage physicians to improve their practice, supporting the journey of physicians through self-directed learning. ABIM and ACCME will continue to identify emerging opportunities to streamline and diversify lifelong learning activities that generate MOC credit.

A Model for Future Collaborations

The ACCME/ABIM collaboration has become a model for other collaborations in the medical community. In 2016, the ACCME formed collaborations with the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), and is exploring collaborations with other certifying boards. We look forward to identifying more opportunities to support our community of educators and physicians, drive quality in our profession, and improve care for the patients we all serve.

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The number of accredited CME activities that count for ABIM MOC has grown substantially as a result of the collaboration between ABIM and ACCME. The collaboration was initiated in August 2015.

CME Finder

CME Finder, a web-based tool, allows ABIM Board Certified physicians to find accredited CME activities that meet their practice-based needs. Information displayed includes the activity provider, activity type, end date, whether or not there is a fee for participation, and whether registration is open or restricted to a specific group.

In the coming months, CME Finder will also display activities registered for American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology Program® MOCA 2.0® Part 2 (Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment) and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment for MOC Part 2.

Visits to CME Finder have increased from about 16,000 in the first few months to more than 42,000. The analytics shown below include site visitors searching for CME activities for ABIM MOC as well as for activities that comply with the FDA Extended-Release and Long-Acting Opioid Analgesics REMS.

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