Professional development

Speed, innovation drive AOA board certification strategy

AOA certifying boards have been busy eliminating high-stakes recertification exams and transitioning to remote oral and written exams.

Many successful telehealth improvements and more convenient, online education options can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies and associations were forced to adjust, and as AOA President Joseph Giaimo, DO, said in his inauguration speech this summer, the AOA became nimble and creative this past year when it comes to delivering member benefits.

When it comes to AOA Certifying Board Services, online examinations and convenient longitudinal assessment are the exception to these pandemic stories. The AOA was already ahead of the curve and making progress in those areas. It wasn’t a COVID-19 reaction, said Andrea Ciccone, AOA’s senior vice president of Certifying Board Services.

“It was always part of the strategy, because we know that our diplomates and candidates desire convenient and easily accessible testing experiences, and we had already started putting plans for remote delivery of our examinations in place,” Ciccone said. “You could say that COVID might have accelerated our timeline, but we were always going to make this move.”

Longitudinal assessment

Beginning in 2019, the AOA informed members and the osteopathic community that its priority was to eliminate high-stakes re-certification exams and transition to a longitudinal assessment model to provide high-quality evaluation of diplomates while allowing greater flexibility to meet the OCC Component 3 requirement. This movement is designed to give diplomates the freedom to access and select content that is relevant to their specialty all while keeping with the true spirit of “continuous learning” that longitudinal assessment offers.

Partnering with the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME), AOA specialty certifying boards developed longitudinal assessment plans for their primary board certification on the CATALYST platform. By the end of 2022 all AOA primary specialty certifying boards will have launched their longitudinal assessments. First to complete the transition was the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians (AOBFP), whose new longitudinal assessment launched on the CATALYST platform in July. The American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry (AOBNP) followed with their launch in October.

Ciccone said technology is the key to this transition. Members of the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (BOS) were introduced to the NBOME’s CATALYST platform in a CBS town hall earlier this year.

“I believe our diplomates will be impressed with the Catalyst system,” said BOS Chair Raymond Depa, DO. “It appears to be designed with the practicing physician in mind. The platform is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. The diplomates will find that the feedback they receive regarding the correct answer will be an educational value for their specialty.”

In addition to the learning opportunities that the CATALYST platform offers, assessments delivered on CATALYST provide both performance feedback and educational resources for the concept being assessed. For our diplomates, CATALYST is convenient and easy to use. In addition to the learning opportunities that the CATALYST platform offers, by providing immediate performance feedback along with educational and learning resources, our diplomates will learn and retain relevant knowledge.

Remote written and oral exams

Longitudinal assessment is just one piece of AOA’s objectives.

During the past year, the vast majority of written certification exams and all oral certification exams were proctored remotely. Additional written exams are set to transition to the remote proctor format in the coming months, with the goal of having all exams fully transitioned in early 2022.

Since June 2020, AOA specialty certifying boards have administered written exams remotely to several thousand candidates. Technology is also playing a key role in remote written and oral exams. The AOA examined several vendors when looking to make the move from in-person to remote testing. It chose MonitorEDU and Paradigm Testing as its primary vendor for the delivery of its remote written and oral exams. MonitorEDU has been in the remote proctoring business since 2008 and works with several professional organizations, including medicine, law, and higher education. The AOA chose Paradigm due to its one-of-a-kind innovative oral exam platform that offers high-end security in a remote environment without being invasive to the candidate’s privacy.

Feedback from post-exam surveys from many candidates focused on the exams’ convenience, including one who reported that “the virtual oral exam platform was great. For many reasons other than the pandemic, this way of taking the oral exam—I hope—is the way of the future. It allowed me to focus on my patients, clinic and OR without having to worry about time away from them, money spent on travel and time away from my family and three small children.”

The platform is built around security and ease of use for both our candidates and examiners. MonitorEDU and Paradigm have been true partners with the AOA during our transition to remote proctoring, and we look forward to working together as we continue to grow for many years to come.

“Innovation for the benefit of our candidates and diplomates is essential to providing the user experience they deserve,” said AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD. “AOA board certification is the only osteopathically distinct competency assessment for board certification, and thus, should be the preferred choice for certification for all DOs. We are working hard every day to make certain that AOA board certification continues its over 80 years of service excellence to the osteopathic community while making initial certification and osteopathic continuous certification effective but less burdensome.”

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