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Maintenance of Certification® Resources

MOC-PS® Resources Available on the Plastic Surgery Education Network (PSEN)

Background on Maintenance of Certification® (MOC®)

The development of Maintenance of Certification® is a professional response to the need for public accountability and transparency. Through Maintenance of Certification®, physicians demonstrate that they can assess the quality of care they provide compared to peers and national benchmarks, and then apply the best evidence or consensus recommendations to improve that care.

Through a program of lifelong learning and on-going self-assessment, board certified physicians demonstrate their commitment to achieving quality clinical outcomes for patients in a responsive, patient-focused setting.

That is why in 2000, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and 24 Member Boards of the ABMS agreed to evolve their recertification program to be a continuous professional development program - The Maintenance of Certification® (MOC®). The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is one of the 24 approved Member Boards of the ABMS. The primary function of each of these boards is to evaluate candidates in its primary specialty and subspecialty areas who voluntarily appear for review and to certify those qualified as "diplomates" or "subspecialists" of that board. This is accomplished through a comprehensive process involving educational requirements, professional peer evaluation and examination. In 2006, all Member Boards received approval of their ABMS MOC® program plans, and are now implementing the Four-part Process for Continuous Learning within the Six Core Competencies for Quality Patient Care:

Four-part Process for Continuous Learning

  • Part I: Licensure and Professional Standing: Hold a valid, unrestricted medical licensure.
  • Part II: Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment: Educational and self-assessment programs determined by your Member Board - the American Board of Plastic Surgeons (ABPS)
  • Part III: Cognitive Expertise: Demonstrate your specialty-specific skills and knowledge.
  • Part IV: Practice Performance Assessment: Demonstrate your use of best evidence and practices compared to peers and national benchmarks.

Six Core Competencies for Quality Patient Care

  1. Patient Care: Provide care that is compassionate, appropriate and effective treatment for health problems and to promote health.
  2. Medical Knowledge: Demonstrate knowledge about established and evolving biomedical, clinical and cognate sciences and their application in patient care.
  3. Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Demonstrate skills that result in effective information exchange and teaming with patients, their families and professional associates (e.g. fostering a therapeutic relationship that is ethically sounds, uses effective listening skills with non-verbal and verbal communication; working as both a team member and at times as a leader).
  4. Professionalism: Demonstrate a commitment to carrying out professional responsibilities, adherence to ethical principles and sensitivity to diverse patient populations.
  5. Systems-based Practice: Demonstrate awareness of and responsibility to larger context and systems of healthcare. Be able to call on system resources to provide optimal care (e.g. coordinating care across sites or serving as the primary case manager when care involves multiple specialties, professions or sites).
  6. Practice-based Learning and Improvement: Able to investigate and evaluate their patient care practices, appraise and assimilate scientific evidence and improve their practice of medicine.

Why Adopt the Maintenance of Certification?

Physicians benefit from participating in MOC® because they receive focused learning based on individual practice needs, increase efficiency and reduce malpractice premiums. Patients experience feweer medical errors, better communication and quality clinical outcomes when they choose a board certified physician. Medical specialists who participate in MOC® use the most current evidence-based guidelines and standards in their specialty and are widely recognized as leaders in the national movement for healthcare quality. Additionally, the MOC® is recognized as an important quality marker by insurers, hospitals, quality and credentialing organizations, as well as the federal government. Through the MOC® program, board certified physicians advance the standard of specialty medical care nationwide.

The Meaning of Board Certification

Medical specialty certification in the United States is a voluntary process. While medical licensure sets the minimum competency requirements to diagnose and treat patients, it is not specialty specific. Board certification - and the Gold Star - demonstrate a physician's exceptional expertise in a particular specialty and/or subspecialty of medical practice.

The Gold Star signals a board certified physician's commitment and expertise in consistently achieving superior clinical outcomes in a responsive, patient-focused setting. Patients, physicians, healthcare providers, insurers and quality organizations look for the Gold Star as the best measure of a physician's knowledge, experience and skills to provide quality healthcare within a given specialty.

Reflections on MOC®

Keith E. Brandt, MD
"It's absolutely critical that the specialty boards continue to evolve Maintenance of Certification because the specialists understand the uniqueness of their area of medicine. It should not fall into anyone else's hands."

Donald H. Lalonde, MD
"Look at the good things that are coming out of Maintenance of Certification. It's a chance to assess your performance, improve your practice and to feel good about the fact that what you are doing is up to speed and best for your patients."

For questions, contact the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS):

Melissa Karch
(215) 587-9322
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

American Board of Plastic Surgery
Steven Penn Center
1635 Market Street, Suite 400
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2204

Written exam questions:
Oral exam questions:
MOC® exam questions:
Subspecialty Surgery of the Hand (SOTH) exam questions: