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Most of us would like our doctors to be up-to-date on medical advances and to know that their knowledge and skills are regularly evaluated. Many physicians, however, object to programs and testing by specialty medical boards to augment their state medical board testing.

These specialty boards require doctors who specialize in particular fields to pass exams to retain their certifications. They’ve also started requiring physicians to participate in Maintenance of Certification programs in between these exams, which can be as much as 10 years apart.

The head of the American Board of Medical Specialties contends that testing doctors just once a decade is not enough to help ensure quality patient care. The MOCs focus not just on knowledge of subject matter, but on measuring the quality of care that doctors have provided their patients based on the results they have achieved.

Many doctors are voicing their displeasure about these MOC programs, calling them irrelevant, time-consuming and a profit-making enterprise for specialty boards. Some are concerned that they’ll one day have to participate in an MOC to retain their state medical licenses. Ohio’s medical board is among those that have passed resolutions that MOCs and similar programs are not a condition of licensure. While board certification is not technically a requirement for doctors to practice, it is generally necessary to get hospital privileges and insurance.

Over 17,000 doctors have signed a petition calling for the largest specialty board, the American Board of Internal Medicine, to waive the MOC requirement. They argue that they already have to take courses to keep their state medical licenses, and that there is no evidence that the MOC programs improve health care.

However, the chief executive officer of that board contends that many doctors are not as current in their knowledge of their specialty as they believe they are. He points to the fact that the percentage of doctors who pass the 10-year exam fell from 90 percent to 65 percent in the past five years.

Even if Ohio doctors are not required to participate in their MOC programs, patients can check the ABMS website to see if their doctor has met MOC requirements. While this is not a guarantee that the doctor won’t make a diagnostic or surgical error or other type of malpractice, it’s one more piece of information to consider when seeking the best health care provider.