Background: The relationship between physicians' cognitive skill and the delivery of evidence-based processes of care is not well characterized.Therefore, we set out to determine associations between general internists' performance on the American Board of Internal Medicine maintenance of certification examination and the receipt of important processes of care by Medicare patients.
Methods: Physicians were grouped into quartiles based on their performance on the American Board of Internal Medicine examination. Hierarchical generalized linear models examined associations between examination scores and the receipt of processes of care by Medicare patients. The main outcome measures were the associations between diabetes care, using a composite measure of hemoglobin A(1c), and lipid testing and retinal screening, mammography, and lipid testing in patients with cardiovascular disease and the physician's performance on the American Board of Internal Medicine examination, adjusted for the number of Medicare patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease in a physician's practice panel; frequency of visits; patient comorbidity, age, and ethnicity; and physician training history and type of practice.
Results: Physicians scoring in the top quartile were more likely to perform processes of care for diabetes (composite measure odds ratio [OR], 1.17; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.07-1.27) and mammography screening (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.08-1.21) than physicians in the lowest physician quartile, even after adjustment for multiple factors. There was no significant difference among the groups in lipid testing of patients with cardiovascular disease (OR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.91-1.10).
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that physician cognitive skills, as measured by a maintenance of certification examination, are associated with higher rates of processes of care for Medicare patients.