Physician Exam Scandal Inquiry Raises More Questions

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , August 12, 2010

For instance, the board said it is concerned about the alleged copying or near copying of questions that were carried out over years. But my question is: why weren't there lots of new questions put forth every year? Why would a question that goes back 20 years be an issue now? Officials of ABIM have said that many months' work was put into determining the questions.
And there's another thing: why did it take so long, if word of mouth was so prevalent among the testing service, for the ABIM to figure out that people were getting answers or reviewing questions that had been used before. Were they so isolated that the ABIM couldn't find out about it—if it was going on for 20 years?

Some respondents to Wachter's blog cover the realm of reaction to what has been unfolding in the tests. One writer was very critical of the test takers: "I can't believe people have stooped so low and have so little self esteem that they are not willing to do what it takes to pass the boards."

Another agrees with the "pledge of honesty" that is signed before taking the exam, but notes, "I wonder how just attending the course makes you unprofessional and unethical when you have not taken the exam and you don't know the content."

All those questions may be answered over time.

There is some talk that the penalties may be too harsh, and that possibly the ABIM should consider education programs and other procedures for physicians who may be sanctioned, instead of certificate removals. The ABIM has questions for itself it should have answered as well.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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