American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) maintenance of certification: variations in self-assessment modules uptake within the 2006 cohort

J Am Board Fam Med. 2010 Jan-Feb;23(1):49-58. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2010.01.090101.


Introduction: In its recent shift to a Maintenance of Certification for Family Physicians (MC-FP) paradigm, the American Board of Family Medicine provides diplomates completing 3 self-assessment modules (SAMs) in the first 3 years (or first stage of MC-FP) a pathway to extend their recertification cycle to 10 years provided additional requirements are met, versus a 7-year cycle for "non-completers." We use geographic information systems to report on variations in SAM participation and completion in a single cohort of diplomates followed during their first stage of MC-FP to better understand the communities impacted, barriers to uptake, and urban-rural differences.

Methods: We merged data from 2006 MC-FP files, association workforce files, and the US Census and completed cross-sectional spatial, descriptive, and regression analyses of the uptake and timely completion of SAMs during a 3-year period. Specifically, we explored characteristics of diplomates who did not meet first-stage MC-FP requirements within 3 years versus those who did.

Results: The cohort comprised 10,812 participants who passed their certification or recertification examination in 2005, of which 30.5% did not complete their MC-FP requirements by the end of 2008. Noncompleters were more likely to be older (P < .01), men (P < .0001), and from areas of dense poverty (P < .01) and underserved areas (P < .05). There were no significant differences in MC-FP completion across the rural-urban continuum (P = .7108).

Conclusions: More than two-thirds of eligible, certified family physicians completed stage-one MC-FP requirements. Concerns that technical aspects of the new MC-FP paradigm would leave parts of a widely distributed, poorly resourced primary care workforce disadvantaged may hold true for providers in some underserved areas, but differential completion among rural and remote physicians was not found. Understanding barriers to uptake is essential if the specialty boards are to meet their obligations to the public to promote quality of care through Maintenance of Certification for all physicians.

MeSH terms

  • Certification / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Self-Evaluation Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Societies, Medical
  • Specialty Boards / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data