About MOC — ABMS and NCCPA

Summarized below is general information about MOC requirements of the American Board of Medical Specialties and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). ABMS assists 24 medical specialty boards in the development and use of standards in the ongoing evaluation and certification. Specialty boards "certify" physicians who have met specific requirements for practice in the specialty.

Maintenance of Certification. Historically, most boards provided one-time, “life-long” certification. With the practice of medicine evolving more rapidly, in 2000 the 24 medical specialty boards agreed to move toward issuing time-limited certification, physicians periodically have to meet requirements to recertify for an additional time period. Newly certified physicians automatically entered their specialty’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program. Some “lifetime” certified physicians are participating in the MOC program.

The MOC programs of all 24 specialty boards have the same four general requirements:

Part I. Professionalism and Professional Standing (including holding a valid, unrestricted medical license)

Part II. Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment - educational activities, including self-assessment of knowledge

Part III. Assessment of Knowledge, Judgment, and Skills (primarily re-certification exam)

Part IV. Improvement in Medical Practice - participate in assessing and improving health care

Specific requirements of individual boards vary. Within this four-part framework each specialty board has developed its own specific requirements, options for meeting them, and timeframes in which they must be met. ABMS maintains an overview of the Part II (Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment) and Part IV (Improvement in Medical Practice) requirements of each member Board. To view the overview, go to http://www.abms.org/board-certification/steps-toward-initial-certification-and-moc/ and under "Maintenance of Certification" click on the "Part II" and "Part IV" links. That site has links to the websites of each specific Board and the details of its MOC requirements.

Individual boards continue to evolve their requirements. Therefore, physicians starting the recertification process in a specialty in one year may have specific requirements that differ from requirements applying to physicians starting the recertification process in earlier or subsequent years. Also, physicians starting a new recertification cycle are likely to find that their specialty board’s requirements have changed somewhat from the previous cycle. Physicians participating in a specialty board’s MOC program can check the requirements that currently apply to them by logging onto their personal account on the website of the board.

National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). NCCPA provides initial and maintenance of certification for physician assistants. In 2014 NCCPA introduced a new MOC process for physician assistants. The structure of requirements parallel the four categories used by ABMS, including self-assessment of knowledge, periodically passing a recertification exam, and improving performance in care. For more general information on NCCPA requirements for MOC, see the NCCPA site on MOC http://www.nccpa.net/CertificationProcess and the Michigan Medicine site on MOC for physician assistants http://www.med.umich.edu/i/physicianassistant/cme-moc/index.html .

NCCPA accepts most forms of physician credit (e.g. AMA/ACCME, AOA, AAFP, etc.) in fulfillment of a PA’s normal CME requirements. However, for both Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement activities (PI-CME), the NCCPA requires that these activities be specifically reviewed and approved by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). For performance improvement, AAPA awards AAPA Category 1 Credit in Performance Improvement-Continuing Medical Education (PI-CME).