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ABEM ConCert exam – does it make a difference

October 21, 2016

Short Attention Span Summary

Take your medicine…take your boards
I am a chronic recertifier, having recently taken Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and (just this year) EM boards.  At the end of the exams, there is a survey.  Here are the results.  Does taking the boards every ten years do any good?  Most said it reinforced knowledge and increased knowledge.  About 40% said it made them a better doctor. Most said it helped them professionally and increased earnings and employment opportunities.  Hardly surprising, since you get dropped by insurance companies if you’re not board-certified.  A better question is, does it improve the care of our patients and outcomes?  Personally, I am glad to have refreshed my memory on the causative organism of lymphogranuloma venereum this year.  So if any of you have large inguinal adenopathy, let me know.  I can help you.

Spoon Feed
Most doctors said they learned studying for boards.  Shocker!  But what is the impact on our care at the bedside and do our patients benefit?  Studies with patient centered outcomes would be more compelling.




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        <div class="image-caption">MD Calc has a free mobile app! And for each download in October, they donate to breast cancer research. &nbsp;It's a win-win!</p></div>


Acad Emerg Med. 2016 Sep;23(9):1082-5. doi: 10.1111/acem.12971. Epub 2016 Sep 6.

The American Board of Emergency Medicine ConCert Examination: Emergency Physicians’ Perceptions of Learning and Career Benefits.

Marco CA1, Wahl RP2, Counselman FL3, Heller BN4, Harvey AL5, Joldersma KB5, Kowalenko T6, Coombs AB5, Reisdorff EJ5.

Author information: 

  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Dayton, OH. cmarco2@aol.com.
  • 2Department of Emergency Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI.
  • 3Department of Emergency Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Emergency Physicians of Tidewater, Norfolk, VA.
  • 4Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Mary Medical Center, Long Beach, CA.
  • 5American Board of Emergency Medicine, East Lansing, MI.
  • 6Department of Emergency Medicine, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Royal Oak, MI.



As part of the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, ABEM-certified physicians are required to pass the Continuous Certification (ConCert) examination at least every 10 years. With the 2015 ConCert examination, ABEM sought to better understand emergency physicians’ perceptions of the benefits of preparing for and taking the examination and the career benefits of staying ABEM-certified.


This was a prospective survey study. A voluntary postexamination survey was administered at the end of the 2015 ABEM ConCert examination (September 21-26, 2015). Physicians were asked about the benefits of preparing for the examination and maintaining ABEM certification. Examination performance was compared to perceptions of learning and career benefits.


Of the 2,601 on-time test takers, 2,511 respondents participated (96.5% participation rate). The majority of participants (92.0%) identified a benefit to preparing for the ConCert examination, which included reinforced medical knowledge (73.9%), increased knowledge (66.8%), and making them a better clinician (39.4%). The majority of respondents (90.8%) identified a career benefit of maintaining ABEM certification, which included more employment options (73.8%), more positively viewed by other physicians (56.8%), and better financial outcomes (29.8%). There was a statistically significant association between the perception of knowledge reinforcement and examination performance (p < 0.001). There was also a statistically significant association between the perception that staying certified created more career opportunities and examination performance (p < 0.001).


Most emergency physicians identified benefits of preparing for and taking the ABEM ConCert examination, which included reinforcing or adding medical knowledge and making them better clinicians. Most physicians also found career benefits to remaining ABEM-certified, which included greater employment choices, higher financial compensation, and higher esteem from other physicians. The belief that preparing for and taking the examination reinforced medical knowledge was associated with better examination performance.

© 2016 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.

PMID: 27018239 [PubMed – in process]

What are your thoughts?