By Jonathan Nelson
At this year’s AAFP Congress of Delegates in New Orleans, the American Board of Family Medicine announced plans to pilot a longitudinal assessment alternative to the 10-year secure examination family physicians must take to maintain board certification. This option will be available to physicians who are current with continuous certification and are due to take the exam in 2019.
Based on ABFM’s popular Continuous Knowledge Self-Assessment platform, the new assessment option will deliver 25 questions online each quarter to diplomates who choose to participate.
"This approach is more aligned with the ongoing changes in medicine and draws upon adult learning principles, combined with modern technology, to promote learning, retention and transfer of information," Jerry Kruse, MD, Chair of the ABFM Board of Directors, said in an Oct. 9 ABFM release. "Over time, we will be able to assess the core clinical knowledge of board-certified family physicians and recognize the vast majority who work to keep up to date to take care of their patients."
The announcement marks a milestone in the evolution of the specialty’s maintenance of certification program. In July of 2017, AAFP established a task force to evaluate alternative methods of achieving ongoing board certification. The group delivered its recommendations to the AAFP Board in July of this year.
TAFP President-elect Rebecca Hart, MD, served on the task force and is excited about the new alternative. "Most family physicians were unhappy with the expensive, time-consuming, and anxiety-producing high-stakes exam required for continuing board certification,” she says. “The new longitudinal assessment, being consistent with adult learning theory, provides a much better approach. Physicians find more value in keeping up with current literature by being tested longitudinally on new knowledge as it occurs. Having the opportunity to answer questions conveniently on your own time, with your own device, wherever you want simplifies the process, and eliminates the expense of travel to testing centers.”
Diplomates who participate in the longitudinal assessment will also be able to consult clinical references while answering the questions each quarter, so physicians can access information just like they do in practice.
“It’s what we’ve been asking for, and it evens the playing field by aligning with the reasonable requirements of other specialty boards,” Hart says.
The pilot program was approved by the ABFM Board of Directors in September and it is expected to be approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties' Committee on Continuing Certification in November.
"We believe that longitudinal assessment can meet many of the needs and desires we have heard voiced by family physicians," said Warren Newton, M.D., incoming ABFM president and CEO, in the release. "It will provide questions on a regular, longitudinal basis, in a format that is much more convenient — a few questions at a time, in the place and time of your choice."