Welcome to episode seven of Tails of Testing! Sandy Hogg, our Business Manager, chats with Nicole Kendall, Assessment Director of Product and Program at the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Continuous recertification, also known as longitudinal assessment, is transforming the way organizations recertify or maintain certifications. Learn why and how a leading organization in the medical industry successfully launched an award-winning maintenance of certification program!
[Onscreen: A split-screen of Sandy (left) and Nicole (right) chatting virtually.]
Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Tails of Testing. My name is Sandy Hogg, and I’m the Business Manager here at ITS, and I’m joined today by Nicole Kendall, Director of Assessment Product and Programs at the American Board of Medical Specialties. Welcome to Tails of Testing, Nicole. Why don’t you introduce yourself?
Thank you. Hi, Sandy. Yes, I’m with the American Board of Medical Specialties, which is the leading organization for medical specialty certification for physicians. As a part of our mission, we are highly committed to continuous improvement in support of the medical profession and, ultimately, patient care. One example of that commitment and my main focus at ABMS is the CertLink longitudinal assessment program.
Awesome. I understand that CertLink is now an award-winning assessment platform. So, first of all, congratulations on that!
Thank you. We are really grateful for the recognition.
Yeah. So, the innovator award, which is what you’ve been awarded, is given by the Institute of Credentialing Excellence, recognizes CertLink as a product that transforms or achieves a new level of success in a unique and innovative way. So, for our audience, can you share some background on CertLink—what is it? And what makes this assessment platform so innovative and transformative?
Absolutely. Just a little bit of history: traditionally, a physician certification program came in two parts. A doctor would become board certified by taking an initial certification exam for their given specialty. Then they would receive their certificate and would be required to maintain it over the length of their career. As a part of that continuing certification process, doctors were required to take a traditional, every-10-year, high-stakes exam, studying for hours on topics not always relevant to their daily practice, taking time away from their family and their practice and their patients, and also a lack of performance feedback to really support that learning, and so on. The ABMS Member Boards recognized an opportunity to innovate, and CertLink is one example of that initiative. A cohort of seven ABMS Member Boards collaborated to develop a flexible longitudinal assessment platform rooted in evidence-based adult learning theory—
—to address, yeah, to address those top concerns of the certified doctors. CertLink typically and periodically releases questions in small batches over time. It’s commonly on a quarterly basis. And those are knowledge assessment questions and, you know, they give doctors opportunity to learn while satisfying their certificate requirements—their continuing certification requirements. Many even earn continuing medical education credits as a part of their participation, as well, which is a big win-win for busy physicians. So, there’s so much value proposition to CertLink, and I know we don’t have the time to go into all the details, so I’ll just say that we’re really thrilled with the feedback that the boards are receiving. Doctors are grateful for the personalized assessment and learning opportunities that certainly provides—so much so that 97% of users rate their experience as satisfied or very satisfied.
Wow. So, lots of learning opportunities, you know, they’re getting their questions more often, it sounds like. You know, taking the stress out of it, also, it sounds like, which is pretty important for doctors. They’re under enough pressure and enough stress already. So, wow, that’s sounds really powerful. So, what advice would you have for other organizations considering enhancements to their recertification and professional development programs, since you’ve seen so much success with making this switch for physicians? What advice would you have?
Yeah, definitely. After doing several of these implementations over the last five-plus years, we’ve learned a ton and are eager to share that experience with any organization looking to improve an existing program or establish a longitudinal-based recertification program. So, a couple highlights that I would throw out: as a part of the planning process, really consider and document the goals and objectives of the program. I know this seems basic, but you would be surprised how often this step is skipped and then has unfortunate impact to a program’s success over time. I would also say consider what I like to call your flavor of longitudinal assessment, and I like to think about it as an ice cream shop, that longitudinal assessment is the ice cream shop with many flavors inside. So how do you want to sequence your learning content and assessment questions? Will you be using multiple choice questions or also incorporating article-based content? Do you want to incorporate space repetition, also known as retesting of content over time? How do you want to handle performance feedback and scoring? And there are so many options to all of those questions.
Additionally, I would also encourage organizations to honestly plan for the training of subject matter experts in the development of this kind of assessment content and the timing—how long it takes to develop this, especially initially. Once you kind of get going, you know, you have that under your belt, and you benefit from those experiences, but we have found that it is the most time-intensive phase of the longitudinal assessment project.
And then lastly, I would say, just be careful to not underestimate the operational changes that are necessary to support this new kind of program, especially those who are transitioning from an existing traditional recertification exam. There’s a lot to consider, communication to users being a huge piece of that.
Yeah, it sounds like the initial phase, the upfront, is probably very time intensive, but it sounds like so rewarding, you said, you know, 97% satisfaction rate. That’s impressive.
Yeah, we’re really excited about it.
Yeah, that’s definitely something worth celebrating. So, before we wrap up, are there any other tips you would like to share with our audience?
I’m not sure if this is a tip per se but maybe rather an invitation. As I said, ABMS’s mission is rooted in continuous improvement, and we want to help others who are, you know, looking to go down that path as well, happy to share our experiences and learnings with any organization thinking along these lines. I know it can seem like a daunting proposition up front. Like we said, it’s hard work, but there are substantial gains and there are lasting gains. And again, we’re happy to share, you know, that knowledge so others can benefit from those lessons learned.
Great. Well, Nicole, thank you so much for chatting with me today. We really look forward to seeing where CertLink goes from here.
Oh, thank you, Sandy, for having me.
About Our Guests
Sandy is the Business Manager at ITS and has over a decade of experience in program management and business development. Her strong background paired with her natural curiosity and solutions-oriented mindset allows her to develop and implement efficient processes and tools that support the Sales and Marketing team. Sandy is also an essential part of the proposal team and product demo process. Outside of work, you can find her running long distances or hiking with her family.
Nicole Kendall has a background in consulting, project and product management, and team building. Ms. Kendall has 18 years of experience leading teams that build and support software solutions for various industries, including health care. In her role as Assessment Director of Product and Program at ABMS, she collaborates with Member Boards and other stakeholders to leverage the CertLink® technology platform for innovations in assessment and learning.