ABO plans for future, addresses misconceptions

December 19, 2011

As the second round of candidates for American Board of Optometry (ABO) board certification completed the examination slated from Nov. 28 to Dec. 11, representatives discussed the next steps for the profession.

“We’re extremely excited by the response we’ve had this year,” said ABO Chairman of the Board Paul Ajamian, O.D. “The second exam was administered successfully, and we expect many more to participate in the process in 2012, as we enter the final year of the initial qualifying rules.”

The next opportunity to register will be in March 2012 for the July 16-31, 2012, exam. Candidates need 150 points of post-graduate requirements and should remember that verification of points can take up to 30 days. (See related article in the December 2011 AOA News for more details.)

The ABO also addressed some common misconceptions about the board certification process.

“Some believe that the exam is an academic exercise, when in actuality it is written by practicing optometrists for practicing optometrists in a case-based format. We have created the examinations in conjunction with our testing partner, Prometric, which also administers the exams of the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Family Medicine, among others,” said Jeff Weaver, O.D., ABO executive director.  

The pass rate for the first examination was 92.6 percent. “That’s no guarantee of future performance, but it shows that this is an attainable goal,” he said.

Dr. Ajamian noted the feedback from those taking the exam as proof of the success of the process.

“The doctors who took the first exam are very proud of passing, but even more so of individual preparation for the test,” he said. “Many were grateful to get back to a disciplined study routine. This can only benefit patients, and in many cases already has.”

Board certification in optometry may also benefit optometrists and the profession as a whole.

The ABO is one of only seven boards with approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program incentive.

In this program, physicians will have the opportunity to earn the PQRS incentive, and an additional incentive of 0.5 percent, by participating in additional activities of a qualified MOC program.

While the examination is the gateway into the program, the maintenance portion is at the heart of the board certification process, demonstrating a commitment to lifelong learning.

“There will be many advantages to participating in a process that is an accepted industry standard across the health professions,” said Dr. Ajamian. “Optometry has always strived for access to all available third-party plans just as allopathic and osteopathic medical practitioners, along with equal reimbursement and respect. Now we have filled in this piece to the puzzle, board certification, that is universally recognized by doctors and patients alike.”

“Ten years from now I am confident that we will look back with pride knowing we established a process for those optometrists who choose to take advantage of it,” said Dr. Ajamian.

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