The ABR’s Revised New MOC Agreement

Last week, people were upset about the heavy-handy liberty-destroying verbiage of the ABR’s new MOC agreement. Some people complained. At least one cranky fellow wrote a blog post about it, and then two days later the ABR backtracked and promised to remove the language about waiving various rights.

They did, in fact, do that. But, oddly, they didn’t release the full text on their website as people requested (and certainly not a track changes-type comparison or an explanation). Those who already signed the old agreement thus can’t see the new agreement for which they are automatically being “grandfathered.”

(It’s perhaps also worth noting that the ABR ironically used the term grandfathering incorrectly. Grandfathering is when old people get to keep using old rules despite subsequent changes. The ABR does this literally every day when lifetime certificate holders are exempt from MOC. Automatically making a new agreement retroactive is the opposite of grandfathering.)

Regardless, here is the new agreement (with commentary, natch).

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that by enrolling in the American Board of Radiology (ABR) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Program, I am subject to the policies and procedures of the program and agree to hold myself to the highest ethical standards in the practice of my specialty.

Deal.

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that the ABR MOC program is designed to monitor my professionalism and professional standing, lifelong learning and self-assessment, assessment of knowledge, judgement [sic] and skills and improvement in medial [sic] practice.

Yes, they really misspelled judgment and medical.

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that as a diplomate of the Board, I have the responsibility to supply the Board with information adequate for the Board’s proper evaluation of my credentials, moral, ethical and professional standing. I authorize any hospital or other medical or professional organization, or person who may have information relevant to its evaluation of my certification and/or enrollment in the MOC program to provide such information upon request. IF requested by the Board, I will sign and promptly return appropriate consents for release of information addressed to specific persons or entities.

This is a less scary wording of what amounts to the same material. As in, you will cooperate with ABR investigations and aid the ABR in information gathering about you when your privacy rights prevent the ABR from doing so without your consent.

They no longer mention things like waiving FERPA but presumably, all of the details still apply here. If you agree to let them do whatever they want, then you will be signing away those same rights during an investigation if requested. While this sounds bad, it’s hard to imagine the ABR being able to revoke certification from bad actors without this information unless they always wait for state boards and hospitals to act first and then just follow suit.

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that any communications made to the Board regarding my certification and/or enrollment in the MOC program may be made in confidence and will not be made available to me under any circumstances. I hereby release from liability any hospital, medical staff, medical or professional organization, person, or the Board of Governors from liability for acts performed in good faith and without malice in connection with the Board’s request for information.

This is also essentially the same. We can’t try to punish whistleblowers.

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that should information be received which would adversely affect my certification and/or enrollment in the MOC program, I will be so advised and given an opportunity to rebut such allegations. However, I will not be advised as to the identity of any individual or entity who has furnished adverse information concerning me, and that all statements and other information furnished to the Board in connection with such inquiry shall be confidential, and not subject to examination by me or anyone acting on my behalf. I also agree that I will not use any litigation process, subpoena or other means to attempt to cause any disclosure of adverse information received by the ABR regarding my character or certification.

Whistleblowers can maintain anonymity. I know this was troubling to many people but doesn’t actually bother me that much with the exception of theoretical reports that are not made in good faith. It’s common practice for good faith reports to be protected from liability. But malicious and false reports, once discovered, are typically not immune, and if the motivation behind a report were to become suspect, I’d like to see that language put in. It’s also hard to imagine being able to robustly rebut allegations if “all statements and other information” are confidential.

I CONSENT to have my name and demographic data, including type and date of all ABR certifications and maintenance of certification status included in any list or directory in which the names of diplomates of the specialty boards are published.

Uncontroversial and unchanged.

I AGREE the Board is not liable for any incorrect information provided to the medical community or to the public regarding the status of my certificates, and I further agree that I will promptly notify the board of any errors or omissions in such information.

CYA, meaning unchanged.

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that the continued validity of my certificate will be contingent upon my meeting the requirements of the Maintenance of Certification Program (MOC) administered by the Board, as amended from time to time.

I.e, unless the ABR one day loses a lawsuit, you will always need to pay ABR’s MOC tax to remain board-certified.

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE it is my responsibility to stay informed regarding all aspects of the MOC program and understand that the Board does not have any responsibility to provide individual diplomates with notice of changes to MOC policies.

This is also largely unchanged and is a petty cop-out. The idea is presumably to prevent diplomates from pleading ignorance when they don’t fulfill some component.

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that it is my responsibility to notify the ABR of any changes in my mailing address, phone number and email address. All changes made by me via the website shall be accepted as legally binding, and will become the property of the ABR.

ABR, you can’t just seize my property just because I enter my address in your system…

I’m kidding, more or less. What this actually means is that the ABR can legally sell your contact info to the highest bidder (gross).

I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE that it may be necessary for the ABR to revise and update this Agreement at a later date, and that I may be required to sign the updated agreement, which will replace and supersede the terms of this agreement.

We can have an internet discussion again when that happens.

Summary

This is shorter and more readable. All the truly heinous stuff has been removed. Is it perfect? Of course not. Is the effect in some cases the same despite the softer language? You bet. Is it much better than it was last week? Undeniably.

Why the ABR is burying their fix is beyond me. They should, in fact, delete all the recent agreements and ask all diplomates to sign this new version. Everyone deserves to see what they’re signing, and the other agreements (even if “grandfathered”) should not continue to exist.

5 Comments

  1. question -how legal is it to “grandfather” an agreement. My guess – it is not. Essentially, they are saying that they will sign the new agreement for the candidate. There could be a circumstance that the candidate did NOT want to sign the new one.

    I have never seen a situation where you were legally bound to an agreement by having signed a previous version.

    Very, very strange.

    Reply
    • I agree: it’s extremely odd, and the ABR’s standard practice of near radio silence between installments of “The Beam” makes these sorts of issues so much more dramatic than necessary.

      Reply
      • Well, they just fixed that in today’s email. Everyone now has access to and can sign the new agreement. Not sure why they hit the pause button on that in the first place.

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