An alternative path to recertification


The National Board of Physicians and Surgeons (NBPAS) has announced that they are recertifying United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS) diplomates as of Nov. 1, 2020. Recertification will include physicians who were initially board certified with UCNS in the subspecialties of autonomic disorders, behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry, clinical neuromuscular pathology, geriatric neurology, headache medicine, neurocritical care, neuroimaging, and neuro-oncology.

Dr. Paul G. Mathew is a Boston-based neurologist

Dr. Paul G. Mathew

In 2020, UCNS transitioned to a new continuous-certification (C-cert) model that requires its diplomates to pay an annual fee of $175 and complete a 25-question online quiz based on preselected journal articles with an 80% passing grade. In a press release outlining the details of the new C-cert program, UCNS said that diplomates began the transition last year by “attesting they have participated in subspecialty-specific continuing medical education (CME) requirements from the time their most recent certificate was issued through 2019.” Diplomates have a 2-year window, which began in 2019, to meet these transitional CME requirements and complete an attestation statement before their certification lapses. “Diplomates with a status of ‘meeting requirements’ will be issued a replacement certificate that shows their original certification date and will reflect there is no expiration date after they pay the first annual C-cert fee in 2020,” UCNS said in the press release.

“It is unfortunate that despite requests from diplomates and other stakeholders, UCNS has decided to impose new requirements and additional fees on diplomates who have unexpired certificates based on passing an examination that granted a 10-year certification,” Paul G. Mathew, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School in Boston and Director of Legislative Affairs at NBPAS, said in an interview. “A one-size-fits-all approach for learning with preselected articles is not ideal, and physicians should be able to choose CME and other learning activities that best suit their individual interests and practice.”

The added requirements and fees have caused some UCNS diplomates to consider letting their certification lapse, Dr. Mathew said, but the NBPAS decision offers them a new path to recertification. “Many physicians who would have otherwise let their certification lapse and would no longer be considered board certified in headache medicine and other UCNS subspecialties will now have the option to recertify with NBPAS,” he said.

NBPAS was formed in 2014 in response to controversial American Board of Medical Specialties Maintenance of Certification (MOC) programs. NBPAS recertifies diplomates of all specialties and subspecialties offered by the ABMS and its member boards, including board certification in neurology and neurologic subspecialties offered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Board recertification with NBPAS requires an unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States, an initial certification with ABPN, the American Osteopathic Association, and/or UCNS, a medical staff appointment/membership in good standing, active hospital privileges based on specialty, and 50 hours of relevant CME credits every 2 years.

“Although MOC compliance is not required for licensure, the vast majority of insurance carriers in the United States require to some extent that their physicians be MOC compliant. As such, the ABMS has a monopoly in that a physician cannot practice medicine without complying with MOC,” Dr. Mathew said. “That’s very gradually changing.”

So far, 13 states have passed legislation limiting ABMS MOC compliance as a requirement for credentialing or licensure, and 136 healthcare institutions have recognized NBPAS as a pathway for physician credentialing, according to an NBPAS press release.


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