Physician Reflects on Participating in MOCA-Peds Focus Group

By Vanessa G. Carroll, MD

As a practicing pediatrician, I am excited to hear about the potential upcoming changes to the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Part 3 Exam currently in the works at the American Board of Pediatrics. 

I recognized the importance of having physician representation in the creation of this new certification process, so I volunteered to be a member of the MOC 3 Development User Group. I was fortunate enough to be one of 37 pediatricians from across the country randomly chosen by RTI International, an independent research institute, to provide clear feedback and specific direction on the new pilot structure starting in early 2016, which was referenced in a previous blog. This group has played a vital role in the shaping of the MOCA-Peds initiative by providing real world insight into the lives, challenges, and competency goals of practicing pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists alike. As a group member, I am proud of the meaningful changes to come in the certification process and appreciate the ABP’s willingness to adjust and respond to the needs of its physicians.

This new MOCA-Peds initiative is designed to replace the current 10 year, 200 question secure site testing method with an interactive quarterly assessment program of 20 questions per quarter (~80 questions/year) that allows the diplomate to individualize the recertification process while improving learning. Pediatricians will now be able to determine when and where they take questions, such as on a desktop at work between patients, on the smart phone while away from the office, or on a tablet at home when life slows down and gets quiet. This level of flexibility actually allows physicians to decide when is truly the best time for them to test their knowledge, instead of a single, stress-inducing exam day, which may require several months of preparation, associated expenses from course attendance or text book purchases and monopolization of already precious time. The ABP seems to appreciate the rigors of work-life balance doctors face today, as well as the mounting burdens in the health care system, which greatly contribute to burnout, and is sincerely trying to make life for its doctors better while also assuring competency in caring for our patients.

General pediatricians also will be able to direct the learning pathway towards an inpatient, outpatient, or combined focus so that the assessment will truly gauge necessary knowledge and aim to improve physician performance in applicable ways. As a pediatric hospitalist, it is very reassuring to know that my test questions will actually be directed towards issues that I deal with on a daily basis, or be major concepts of which all physicians should be aware. MOCA-Peds questions will be directed towards the 40 published, yearly learning objectives so that physicians can narrow the area of concentration prior to starting questions. These questions will be in the standard multiple choice format with a time limit. Once the response is submitted, the correct answer will be displayed, along with the rationale behind it and links to references and additional learning materials designed to facilitate the diplomate’s learning process.

As an ABP diplomate, I am grateful for the attention that the organization has devoted to revising the certification process. Being a participant of this user group has given me a chance to truly see the energy and focus numerous people within the organization have devoted to this important project. User feedback has been candid with clear direction, and the ABP has been consistently receptive and many modifications have been implemented in order to make this project physician-guided and meaningful.

Since January 2016, user members have met on a regular basis to shape and continuously revise this certification process. Everything from question structure, reference listings, computer displays, time constraints with work, security testing, and perceived stress for subspecialists with multiple certifications have been addressed. At each step in this drafting process, the primary focus has been us, the pediatricians, with the ultimate goal of ensuring competency while recognizing the challenges physicians face today. 

I am pleased with this new direction of testing and look forward to additional member feedback to come.

About the AuthorVanessa G. Carroll, MD

Dr. Carroll earned her medical degree from Tulane Medical School where she was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. She completed her internship and residency in Pediatrics at Tulane and Ochsner Health System. She was honored as one of the "Best Doctors in America" in 2007. She is board certified in Pediatrics and joined the Ochsner staff in 2006.