Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 8, pp 1292–1298 | Cite as

The American Board of Internal Medicine Maintenance of Certification Examination and State Medical Board Disciplinary Actions: a Population Cohort Study

  • Furman S. McDonald
  • Lauren M. Duhigg
  • Gerald K. Arnold
  • Ruth M. Hafer
  • Rebecca S. Lipner
Original Research



Some have questioned whether successful performance in the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program is meaningful. The association of the ABIM Internal Medicine (IM) MOC examination with state medical board disciplinary actions is unknown.


To assess risk of disciplinary actions among general internists who did and did not pass the MOC examination within 10 years of initial certification.


Historical population cohort study.


The population of internists certified in internal medicine, but not a subspecialty, from 1990 through 2003 (n = 47,971).


ABIM IM MOC examination.


General internal medicine in the USA.

Main Measures

The primary outcome measure was time to disciplinary action assessed in association with whether the physician passed the ABIM IM MOC examination within 10 years of initial certification, adjusted for training, certification, demographic, and regulatory variables including state medical board Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements.

Key Results

The risk for discipline among physicians who did not pass the IM MOC examination within the 10 year requirement window was more than double than that of those who did pass the examination (adjusted HR 2.09; 95% CI, 1.83 to 2.39). Disciplinary actions did not vary by state CME requirements (adjusted HR 1.02; 95% CI, 0.94 to 1.16), but declined with increasing MOC examination scores (Kendall’s tau-b coefficient = − 0.98 for trend, p < 0.001). Among disciplined physicians, actions were less severe among those passing the IM MOC examination within the 10-year requirement window than among those who did not pass the examination.


Passing a periodic assessment of medical knowledge is associated with decreased state medical board disciplinary actions, an important quality outcome of relevance to patients and the profession.


maintenance of certification MOC disciplinary action ABIM certification 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the following individuals for their critical review of the manuscript: Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP; Richard J. Baron, MD; J. Taylor Hays, MD, Joseph C. Kolars, MD.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The Institutional Review Board of the University of Pennsylvania approved the study.

Conflict of Interest

All authors are employed by the American Board of Internal Medicine.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Furman S. McDonald
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Lauren M. Duhigg
    • 1
  • Gerald K. Arnold
    • 1
  • Ruth M. Hafer
    • 1
  • Rebecca S. Lipner
    • 1
  1. 1.American Board of Internal MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Adjunct Professor of MedicineMayo Clinic College of Medicine and ScienceRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Clinical Associate of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.J. Edwin Wood ClinicPennsylvania HospitalPhiladelphiaUSA

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