Medical practitioners fulfill various criteria to earn and maintain their medical licenses and credentials. For specialists, this includes the regular completion of CME credit for medical licensure and maintenance of certification (MOC) points for medical specialty credentialing.
The ongoing alignment between professional medical associations and the authoritative body overseeing CME, the Accreditation Council Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), means that practitioners may have the opportunity to earn MOC points with CME activities.
Medical Credentialing and MOC Points
Specialist physicians complete various criteria to maintain their medical credentials, including continuing medical education credits and maintenance of certification points (MOC) through their professional medical associations.
CME typically refers to ongoing medical education used as part of state medical board licensing, not specialization. MOC is a system of specialized medical certification that includes meeting continuing education criteria.
MOC and CME Administration
CME credits and MOC points, although related, are recorded differently. The earned credits in a CME activity may not directly correspond to the number of MOC points.
The key difference lies in the setting of criteria and the awarded credentials. Specialty boards, like the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), oversee MOC for medical specialties, while state medical boards regulate CME requirements.
Medical specialty boards administer MOC points, evaluating a physician’s knowledge, clinical expertise, and communication skills within their respective specialties.
Earning CME Credit for MOC Points
From the perspective of the practitioner, earning MOC with CME can be relatively straightforward. Be aware of your MOC requirements and be sure to determine the value a CME activity has in terms of CME points. Both Category 1 and 2 activities could count towards your MOC point totals.
Choosing CME that Meets MOC Specifications
There are a few things to look for when selecting CME for MOC. Overall, practitioners should focus on the content’s quality, substance, and certification as an MOC activity. CME providers are required to register an activity with the requisite medical board and seek approval for its content, accreditation, and authorship. Generally, CME for MOC requires the content’s primary substance and objectives to align with the practitioner’s medical specialty, advancing medical knowledge and skills in the areas deemed important by your medical board.
- Ensure CME is accredited: Medical specialty board credentialing alignment under the ACCME simplifies the earning of CME for MOC by accepting AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ for MOC points. A good first step to determining the potential value for an activity towards MOC goals is its status as an accredited activity.
- Confirm content for specialized information: Does the CME curriculum reflect your medical specialty? Does it contain sessions or online modules that provide an in-depth examination of a skill, technique, or area of knowledge vital to the present and near future of your specialty? Accredited CME providers should make course curriculums available to you prior to purchase with CME funds.
- Check with ACCME’s PARS or with your CME provider: Ultimately, whether you can complete CME for MOC points is dependent on whether or not the CME provider has registered the CME activity in the ACCME’s PARS. You can check the status of an activity in PARS. When in doubt, contact the CME provider directly to learn more about whether they offer CME for MOC points and how they will be reported. CME providers can typically assist with the reporting process.
Reporting CME as MOC
Medical licensure and credentialing cycles may not directly align; therefore it is necessary to track each separately. Documentation, points allocation, and reporting deadlines differ depending on which CE system your activity will be applied to. Your professional association’s website may contain information on converting CME credits to MOC points to accurately track your progress.
In some cases, the CME activity can be used to earn both CME and MOC points. You will want to check with both your state licensing board as well as the professional organization to ensure the proper allocation of points towards each CME credit and MOC points goals. This can usually be done by applying for them through your professional organization or authorizing them with the CME provider prior to their submission to your association.
Similarly to Category 1 and 2 CME, many MOC requirements are broken down into separate categories. For instance, The American Board of Pediatrics requires earning points within its four areas of learning, depending on the practitioner, their specific requirements, and educational goals. Most member boards operate using the Parts 1 and Parts 2 designations of MOC activities, with Part 1 consisting of the 50 points necessary to maintain your specialty credentials and remain in good professional standing. Part 2 points may have separate reporting requirements and are generally self-assessment (or self-report), similar to Category 2 credits in the AMA system.
The total number of MOC points you need depends on the criteria set by your professional association. However, like CME for state medical licensure, MOC credentialing cycles are often two years or longer. In addition to regular credentialing cycles, specialty boards can also require certain certifications intermittently such as a standardized board exam every five to ten years.
When a CME Activity Qualifies as MOC
The responsibility of registering a CME activity for MOC points ultimately falls with the accredited CME provider, who must follow a registration process to have their activity accepted by both the specialty credentialing board and CME authorities. Practitioners still need to be aware of how this process promotes access to quality continuing medical education materials. According to the ACCME’s guidance on registering CME, accredited providers must generally do each of the following:
- Comply with the applicable certifying board requirements.
- Collect learner activity data and facilitate its submission into PARS.
- Maintain privacy and security of learner data in all required circumstances.
- Release data about the activity for publishing via the ACCME’s website.
- Stand ready for audit by the ACCME regarding their activity.
General Requirements for CME Activities Registered with the ACCME
Accredited providers in good standing can submit activities to PARS in the following circumstances:
- The activity is registered in PARS and provided directly or jointly with the medical board by the accredited provider.
- The activity is eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.
- The activity sets clear objectives in line with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the American Board of Medical Specialties, covering both physicians and other advanced clinical practitioners.
- The activity’s content and objectives are relevant to the credentialing bodies’ overall goals.
- The activity is not provided by an ineligible company and is impartial and free of financial intent.
- The activity includes an evaluation of the learners’ success in assimilating the material such as test or quiz designed to assess retention (for MOC categories equivalent to Category 1 credit).