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Monday, December 22, 2014

If you wondered what the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation was all about...

I have asked more than once on this blog why does the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) have a foundation ( the ABIMF).Why did one non-profit set up another one?

 Dr. Westby Fisher, writing  on his blog "Dr. Wes"  provides an eye-opening and in my opinion, shocking narrative about what is happening at the ABIM and ABIMF.This detailed expose about the ABIM and the ABIMF should be required reading not just for internists but for all physicians .

This entire article should be read and shared with colleagues.Here are some highlights and excepts as well as some of my comments.

The ABIM established the ABIMF  and  is its major source of funds. (I am aware the the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gave the ABIMF 5 million dollars for its Choosing Wisely campaign, but most comes from ABIM)

The ABIM's source of funds is mainly from testing internists for certification and more  recently for maintenance  of certification (MOC) testing. It seems that if you subtract their operating expenses from their money flow from testing and certifying and re-certifying internists there is a lot left over to give to the ABIMF.

The principal activities  of the ABIMF are promotion of the new medical professionalism and   the Choosing Wisely Campaign while the ABIM is pushing its maintenance of certification (MOC) program.. Choosing Wisely  began as an apparently reasonable, mom and apple pie  program but may well be morphing into more than that or at the least a number of policy wonks ( and the former CEO of ABIMF) want it to be more controlling than the simple "conversation" between  physician and patient that is was originally purported to be.See here for a commentary about remarks made by the former CEO of the ABIMF ( Dr. John Benson) on the ABIMF 'blog  and by Dr. N, Mortin writing in the NEJM. Both speak of enforcement of the ABIM's edicts recommendations.

So, internists take tests for the which the costs and requirements continue to increase and the "profits" (at least cash in minus expenses) or a significant percentage of it is funneled to the ABIMF where it is spent on   promotion  of the seemingly ever expanding Choosing Wisely campaign as well as the medical  ethics game changing new professionalism.

Quoting Dr. Wes:'s introduction:

"Is it "medically professional" for a non-profit organization to use physician testing fees to "choose wisely" a $2.3 million luxury condominium complete with a chauffeur-driven BMW 7-series town car? In my view, obviously not. To most people such an action would conjure up images of hypocrisy, waste, and corruption.
Yet, after a review of public and tax records, it appears to me this is exactly what has happened."

Hypocrisy,waste and corruption are strong words.Dr. John Mandrola, writing on his blog "Dr. John M:" uses the words, hubris,overreach and tone deafness. in regard to the ABIM's MOC efforts.

I think  Drs. Fisher and Mandrola are if anything too restrained in their characterizations of the activities of ABIM and ABIMF.

The greater uproar and push-back from practicing internists is  directed at, understandably, the egregious and over reaching MOC program but I am afraid that the promotion of the new professionalism and the  linked political agenda may be even more dangerous to the practice of  medicine-all emanating from the ABIM-ABIMF conjoined twins.

Addendum: 1/26/15-Much deserved kudos to Dr. Wes ( AKA Dr.Wesby G Fisher,EP cardiologist) for pulling back the curtain revealing at least some the back stage activities of the ABIM-ABIMF.

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