Well, it’s official. The American Board of Pediatrics has officially jumped the shark. Faced with the reality of thousands of pediatricians refusing to buy the American Board of Pediatrics MOC program, they’ve taken a page from Big Pharma: direct-to-patient advertising. When Big Pharma can’t convince doctors to prescribe an expensive or useless product, they create a flashy, heart-tugging, and often deceptive advertising campaign directing patients to “ask your doctor about X, Y, or Z”. It works pretty well for the pharmaceutical industry and their bottom line, so I can see the appeal to the board certification industry.
This week, the ABP unveiled its new website MyCertifiedPediatrician.org. The website targets parents, directing them to “ask your pediatrician if he or she is board certified today”. It directs parents to the ABP database to check if their doctor is board certified. Mind you, this is a discriminatory and deceptive database that allows older doctors who have only passed one test to remain active and searchable even if they don’t do MOC or pay more money, but deletes the names of completely qualified younger doctors who have passed multiple board examinations if they do the same. Most disturbing are the 14 videos that use chronically ill children and their parents to market the ABP Board Certification product directly to other parents and young patients.
They’ve developed marketing tools targeting patients, such as cute digital “I Am Certified” widgets you can place on your office website (with threats of legal action if you use it and then fall behind on your MOC, so I won’t tempt lawyers and post a copy here). If you want hard goods, they’ll provide “I Am Certified” window clings, pamphlets, and buttons for your white coat.
The whole propo campaign is both nauseating and hilarious. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I slogged through all 14 videos. It was physically painful to watch chronically ill children and their parents used in this campaign. In watching the patients, it’s very clear none of the children used have any idea what board certification is. It sounds like the children had good caring doctors, but I couldn’t help but harbor anger toward their doctors for exploiting their young patients in this way.
Not surprisingly, none of the parents in the videos understood board certification either. Even mother “Breck” admitted she hadn’t heard of board certification until she had to make the video. Mother “Kate” praised the excellent care she received by a doctor just 6 weeks into her fellowship…she praised the care given by a doctor that wasn’t board certified!
This change in tack can only mean one thing: the ABP is in trouble. The data doesn’t show board certification makes for better doctors, so now they’re trying to claim that board certification is a “commitment” and “gift” to our patients. They don’t have the data to support MOC as a quality measure, so they’re going to shame us into participating. My fellow pediatricians need to think twice before downloading that “I Am Certified” logo, because supporting this organization is not something to be proud of.
This is an organization with $107 million in total assets, earned on the backs of hard-working pediatricians. They award themselves million dollar salaries, fly first class to “board meetings”, rake in a $17 million retirement plan while pushing practicing pediatricians into early retirement, taking us away from our families for testing and hoops with zero evidence to support their claims of quality. For those who do download this logo and use it lavishly, stop and think about what it really means.
The “I Am Certified” logo serves as a notice to parents that their pediatrician is beholden to the ABP, the ABP educational programs, the ABP research projects, and may actually not be a very good doctor. A pediatrician that displays the “I Am Certified” logo is no longer choosing her own education tailored to her patient population, she’s learning what the ABP says she should learn.
A pediatrician that displays the “I Am Certified” logo may be performing Part 4 research projects on patients without consent, and sending that data to the ABP or publishing it in the AAP journal (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24935994 and http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/02/01/peds.2015-0675 ).
A pediatrician that displays the “I Am Certified” logo is not a free thinker, doesn’t question authority, and is happy to comply with whatever new requirements are forced upon them and their patients without regard to evidence.
And lastly, you have to question the quality of a pediatrician who would use the desperate “I Am Certified” logo to market themselves. Being board certified in pediatrics comes down to paying $1300 to a 501c3 non-profit in North Carolina. It’s on the level of paying to be included in those scammy “Who’s Who” directories. Any doctor who would wear an “I Am Certified” button on their white coat, hand out “I Am Certified” fliers in their waiting rooms, or issue the stock ABP press release when they “complete MOC” is a little suspect in my mind. A good doctor doesn’t need to puff themselves up with pretend quality credentials to get patients.
The ABP should be ashamed of themselves for this advertising campaign and the way they are using chronically ill children and their parents to sell the MOC product and the way they are directly marketing this to young families. Perhaps the American Board of Pediatrics needs to watch their own videos, specifically of mother “Carole”, who in an attempt to sell board certification gives an eloquent argument against board certification. Here’s what she has to say:
“In healthcare we typically want our physicians to be very knowledgeable, which is important, but it’s more than just the science, it’s the human element that is so important to patients and families. It’s being able to communicate with us, but also with our children–having that bond when you come in the room. There’s that knowledge of the science and the medicine, but there’s the interpersonal aspect of it–it’s the human, it’s the communication, it’s the compassion, and above all it’s empathy when needed.”
That right there, all the stuff that matters to parents, has nothing to do with board certification or MOC. In fact, throughout the video testimonials, everything the patients and families valued about their pediatricians–compassion, communication, rapport, coming in on their days off, going above the call of duty–those are qualities that have nothing to do with the ABP. They can’t be tested, quantified, or data collected and the ABP certainly cannot take credit for those skills. Yet that’s exactly what the ABP is trying to do. They are trying to take credit for the excellent care, late nights, and compassion we demonstrate every day.
Don’t let the American Board of Pediatrics take any credit, docs. It is your hard work, your commitment to continuing education, and your compassion that is saving and improving the lives of children every day. The ABP is just trying to come in a steal the glory on your dime. This all reinforces my very conscious decision nine months ago that “I Am NOT Certified”, a decision I haven’t regretted for an instant.