ABIM Extends MOC Deadline to 2021 Because of COVID-19 Crisis

Alicia Ault

April 15, 2020

Clinicians whose American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) certificates are expiring in 2020 will now have until the end of 2021 to complete their 10-year exam and fulfill other requirements for maintaining certification.

In making the announcement on its website on April 13, the ABIM cited the pressure of COVID-19 on internal medicine specialists.

"Our many internal medicine colleagues — and the clinical teams that support them — have been heroic in their response, often selflessly putting their own personal safety at risk while using their superb skills to provide care for others," wrote ABIM President and CEO Richard J. Baron, MD. "They have inspired all of us."

The organization had previously suspended spring exams until fall out of concern that the timing would likely have had diplomates traveling just as COVID-19 cases were peaking, Baron told Medscape Medical News.

But some diplomates were not happy that they would have to wait months to take the exam, he said. The ABIM decided to be more generous with the time frame and is working on setting up new dates for the 10-year exam.

"What we're trying to do with this decision is to provide flexibility so people who want to do them in fall can do them in the fall," said Baron. Those who still cannot envision an assessment this year "can take it off their list," he said, adding that a spring 2021 exam would be in the offing.

The ABIM is also ensuring that diplomates who wait until 2021 to complete their maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements will still be board certified, Baron said.

Clinicians who want to continue to log points for MOC in 2020 will be able to do so. They can, for instance, receive credit for COVID-19–related education, said Baron. He noted that he had collected MOC points for completing a module at the American College of Physicians' COVID-19 website.

Initial Certification Exam in August ― for Now

The organization is not refunding fees to those who wait until next year. Baron said the ABIM recognized the financial pressure that physicians, hospitals, and health systems are under. However, he said, "If we're going to continue to operate as ABIM, fees are not elective for us. We have a business we need to operate."

The ABIM is considering a new fee model, but in the meantime, he said, he believes diplomates are more interested in maintaining what he called "a valuable credential."

It was important to notify diplomates quickly about the delay, said Baron.

Now, "they can focus on what's going on in their own environment, taking care of their patients, taking care of their community, helping their hospitals and health systems respond," he said.

In a separate announcement, the ABIM said it was still planning to offer the initial certification exam in August — with a caveat. "None of us know what the situation's going to be in August," said Baron. "But we heard from program directors, from candidates ― most people overwhelmingly want to take it if they can."

That may be a challenge. Baron noted that many of the review courses and in-person medical meetings used for study have been canceled. The ABIM is exploring backup dates in the fall and winter for the initial exam, he said.

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