How to not just survive — but thrive — with MOC

By Ron Reece, MD

For the uninitiated, it is easy to see the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process as something of a burden. Here you are practicing dermatology, fulfilling your state requirements for continuing medical education, and someone else comes along and demands: “You have to demonstrate additional competency.” There is a natural human urge to defend yourself; to push back and declare, “I am competent!”

To be honest, MOC is not a walk in the park: The requirements are time-consuming, the required modules and coursework cost money, and there is the added cost of paying staff to handle the increased administrative load. Yet, compared to the time spent to fulfill meaningful use or the foreseeable chaos of implementing ICD-10, MOC is truly about making you a better dermatologist, making your practice more successful, and improving the health of your patients. No elements of the MOC process are pointless, punitive, or unnecessarily onerous. Having been through it myself, I can tell you that it is possible to fulfill MOC almost painlessly — and even profit from it. Here are some thoughts to help you survive — and thrive — with MOC.

As a result of the course I became more adept at identifying melanomas, and in working with my staff we became more effective at following patients with melanomas.

Embrace lifelong learning

My dermatology professor once told me the half-life of medical knowledge is about five years. Put differently, in five years’ time, half of your medical knowledge will become obsolete. New treatments and knowledge will change how you approach and treat your patients’ skin diseases. Naturally, then, it makes sense to be a lifelong learner in medicine. The MOC requirements, including the examination and continuing education, are designed to keep you up to date with the latest advances and protocols.

For example, I diagnose, treat, and follow melanoma patients all the time, and I am inclined to think I do it well. But, when I took the MOC quality improvement module on melanoma, I was surprised to learn that I could be doing better. As a result of the course I became more adept at identifying melanomas, and in working with my staff we became more effective at following patients with melanomas. I had a similar experience after I finished the psoriasis quality-improvement module.

You are not alone

Despite the focus on individual dermatologists, MOC involves a physician’s entire practice. Successfully navigating MOC requires the cooperation of peers, patients, medical assistants, and administrative personnel. For example, the patient and peer communication surveys that are part of component four of MOC involve not only you, but your entire staff. These surveys give you a detailed look at how patients and peers view your practice. These surveys will give you the tools to improve your patient experiences and allow you to better communicate with your patients and peers.

Your practice staff not only will help you fulfill the MOC requirements, but they are instrumental in putting what you learn into practice. For example, the MOC module about hand-washing protocols gave our entire office new insights into the importance of this simple, but often neglected, office practice.

                MOC webinar

The Academy now offers free webinars to provide essential information about the MOC process.

Profit from the process

There is extra work involved in implementing what you have learned through the MOC process. During the past several years, completing the practice quality assessment modules has led to incentive payments from Medicare. MOC will help you to run a better and more effective practice, but, more importantly, the MOC program is designed to improve the health of your patients and enhance the satisfaction you get from practicing your chosen specialty.

Prepare for the future

In addition to making your practice more effective, profitable, and giving you the tools to be a more competent dermatologist, MOC will help align your practice with quality and compliance initiatives that are burgeoning in every state. Health care in general is moving toward more regulation, not less. Developing an ongoing mind-set of improvement and compliance will better prepare you and your practice to meet increasing state and federal standards, regulations, and certifications.

Help is available

Remember, you’re not alone when it comes to fulfilling MOC. Learning to manage the details of MOC can feel like it requires a course unto itself, but support is available.

The AAD, for example, provides a wealth of continuing education opportunities. Dermatologists can get continuing education credit for attending the Academy’s meetings and for taking the monthly CME quiz in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD). The Academy also offers review courses for the MOC exam, and a host of other support materials.

To aggregate all of these tools and information, the Academy recently launched an MOC resource center on its website. It includes:

In January, the Academy launched the first in a series of free educational webinars. This series will help you understand what is required to fulfill MOC and when to complete each requirement.

So, what are you waiting for? Jump in and embrace the process. Let it open your eyes to opportunities for improvement in things you are already doing well. It can only make you a better dermatologist.

Ron Reece, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who has practiced for 27 years in Redding, Calif. Dr. Reece has a lifetime certificate, but took the recertifying exam in 2007 and has been enrolled in MOC ever since. 

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