Docs, accused of cheating, being sued by their own medical boards

June 9, 2010
Bob Keaveney

Is board certification overrated? And are the boards' processes for certifying physicians in need of reform?

Readers, what do you think of the board certification process? 

I ask for two reasons. One, we have a story coming up asking whether board certification is overrated. Given how ubiquitous board certification is, you might be surprised by how little hard evidence there actually is demonstrating a causal relationship between board certification and improved patient outcomes.

So, I'm curious about your own feeling about the boards: Do you think the process made you a better doctor? How much time and money (beyond what you'd already spent getting your MD) did it cost you? And is there anything you'd do to improve the actual process of getting certified?

I also bring  this item to your attention: The American Board of Internal Medicine is suing five physicians and sanctioning 134 others whom it accuses of cheating on their board exams.

The ABIM says the doctors were among those who signed up for a test-prep course given by an operator in New Jersey, called Arora Board Review, which the ABIM sued last year. According to The Wall Street Journal:

"The ABIM's suit alleged that Arora instructors told class members the review questions were from the actual exam and solicited them to supply the company with additional questions they remembered after taking certification exams."

Arora has "suspended" its business pending settlement of the suit against it. The suit against the five physicians alleges copyright infringment. It's not clear why these physicians are being sued, and the other 134 are merely being sanctioned. (Sanctions might inlcude supsension or revocation of certification.)

Everyone know it's wrong to cheat. But I do wonder whether this situation suggests a problem with this board's (and perhaps other boards') exam process. If the boards are using the same questions over and over, is it too easy to cheat? Maybe the old multiple-choice exam as the backbone of certification is obsolete? And what on Earth would prompt physicians who have been through the grueling medical school process to cheat on board exams?