What every practicing radiologist needs to know about the new ABR Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) Program

ABR’s 10-year MOC exam is gone — here’s what’s next

November 1, 2018

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If you’re a board-certified radiologist in the United States, things are about to change drastically for your requirements to stay board certified. We jumped in for our radiologists at Orbit to find out what’s changing with the maintenance of certification process.

Just a few days ago, you just received an email in your inbox that the ABR is getting rid of its traditional 10-year MOC exam. For the fully boarded radiologist, this means no more flights to Tucson and Chicago, crashing test center computers, and awkward glances at the radiologist across from you in the test center.

Starting January 7, 2019, the ABR will launch its new Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) program, which will replace the requirement to fly to the ABR every 10 years for an MOC exam. Following the lead of the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) who launched their own online assessment in 2016 called the MOCA Minute®, the ABR will be rolling out periodic emails reminding you to login and answer multiple choice questions until you hit your quota for the year. Just like the old MOC exam, you’ll be able to choose the scope of the questions by selecting up to three practice areas, all of which can come from one or more specialties.

In order to ease radiologists into the process, the ABR is offering a pre-launch to diplomates starting December 3, 2018, so keep an eye on your inbox for an invite. Many radiologists already started trialing the interface back in July 2018 as part of the OLA Pilot, which was the ABR’s testing period to make sure everything was working on their end.

Minimizing the number of times you need to check into the OLA system

With this new system, there is a measure of flexibility on when you need to answer the questions. Every calendar year, you’ll need to answer at least 52 questions total. You’ll receive a total of 104 question opportunities per year, at a rate of 2 question opportunities released per week. Each question opportunity expires in 4 weeks.

If you’re looking to minimize the number of times you want to check into the OLA system, mark your Google calendar and check the OLA system only during the last week of each month. Based on the question opportunity release schedule, you’ll have 8 question opportunities waiting for you. Finish all 8 questions. Using this schedule, you’ll only need to check into the OLA 7 times per year. Not great, but at least you can take 5 months off using this low-tech lifehack.

First glimpses of the new OLA Interface

The screen shot below is an example of the new ABR OLA interface as I tested it during the OLA Pilot. This may not be exactly what you see when OLA is pre-launched on December 3, but gives you an idea of what it will look like. You’ll see how many questions you’ve answered versus how many are left. In this example, Breast, GI, and Neuro are selected, so questions are drawn from those categories.

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When you click on “Answer Now”, you’ll go to a question page with images, a question stem, and multiple choice answers. When you click on an answer, the correct response turns green, and the explanation text is displayed along with references.

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There’s not much else to the user experience. If you’ve tried out any of the the computerized ABR certification exams, or any of a number of online question banks, you’ll be fine navigating these buttons.

Initial reactions on the usability of the online interface

As far as ease of use, we’re hearing from radiologists that the new interface is actually quite usable. The design aesthetics are well done, so screens are easy to navigate. The questions are going to inevitably be a mixed bag until there’s enough data to properly weight and screen question difficulty. To help with that, the system asks for feedback on question appropriateness at the end of each question, something anesthesiologists are familiar with from the MOCA Minute®. There’s also instant feedback, so you’ll know right away whether your answer was correct or incorrect. A written explanation with at least one reference helps you learn from your answer, whether you got it correct or not.

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Brewing discontent from radiologists that recently completed their MOC Exam

For some radiologists that just completed their MOC exams, there’s discontent that the ABR requires them to begin the OLA before their 10-year anniversary of their MOC. For radiologists that were scheduled to complete their MOC in 2017 or later, the ABR requires participation in the OLA program with everyone else. This means that if you finished your last MOC in 2012 and expected to be good through 2022, you’ll instead need to start the OLA in by January 2019 with everyone else. Needless to say, this has provoked discontent among radiologists finding themselves doing more multiple choice assessments years before they thought they would need to worry about this stuff again.

We reached out to the ABR to hear their reasoning on this policy decision. The ABR describes that they did consider a prorated OLA requirement, and ultimately decided in favor of a single start date for everyone regardless of most-recent MOC exam dates. In 2007, the ABR applied a prorated requirement during the initial introduction of the MOC program. They say that they experienced confusion and frustration from diplomates during this transition. They believe that the source of this confusion was that everyone was starting the same process at different times. They reasoned that applying a single starting universal date for the OLA was a simpler policy for all involved.

Things the new OLA exam doesn’t replace

Although the new OLA exam replaces the 10-year MOC exam, it’s just considered Part 3 of the ABR’s maintenance of certification (MOC). You’ll still need to keep up your state license (Part 1), CME and SA-CME/SAM (Part 2), and practice quality improvement project (Part 4).

In Conclusion

For radiologists that haven’t seen the MOC 10-year exam,the OLA seems like a reasonable bargain — avoiding travel to Tucson or Chicago in exchange for the monthly nuisance of answering questions in a familiar online-question-bank-type format. For radiologists that have their 10-year recertification period cut short, the OLA will be a disappointing addition in the near term. Ultimately, the greatest challenge for the OLA will be to source questions that represent a reasonable standard of competence for the diverse types of radiology subspecialties and practice settings in the United States.

Orbit Staff


ABR FAQ on the new Online Longitudinal Program (OLA), here

Radiology groups across the country are using Orbit’s revolutionary technology to simplify their CME compliance. Learn more at orbitcme.com/radiology or email us at support@orbitcme.com

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