Published 2/11/2021
James D. Kang, MD, FAAOS

Third Year of ABOS WLA Is Underway

The first two years of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery Web-Based Longitudinal Assessment (ABOS WLA) were a success. More than 12,000 ABOS Diplomates participated last year, and surveys showed that the majority of Diplomates who participated thought it was a valuable experience. Many Diplomates took what they learned in the program and made changes to their care of orthopaedic patients. The third year of the ABOS WLA program is underway, and the ABOS invites all eligible Diplomates to participate if they desire.

The 203 Knowledge Sources for 2021 have been posted to Diplomates’ ABOS WLA Dashboards, which can be accessed through their ABOS Diplomate Dashboards. They include 101 new Knowledge Sources for 2021. Each subspecialty has 10 new Knowledge Sources along with Knowledge Sources that have been carried over from 2019 and 2020, but Diplomates should also look at areas outside their subspecialties, as they will likely find Knowledge Sources of interest. You can choose any Knowledge Source, no matter the category. However, Diplomates who hold Subspecialty Certification in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine or Surgery of the Hand must choose at least five Knowledge Sources each year within that subspecialty. In addition, Diplomates cannot choose a Knowledge Source that they have previously chosen in 2019 or 2020.

Every year, Diplomates participating in the ABOS WLA have one Knowledge Source that is required to be reviewed and included in their final list of 15. In 2019, the Knowledge Source concerned opioid use. In 2020, the focus was physician wellness. For 2021, the Board has chosen an article that spotlights diversity, equity, and inclusion in orthopaedics. Every year, the Board spends much time considering the topic for the ABOS WLA required Knowledge Source. If you are participating in the ABOS WLA for the first time, you are allowed—but not required—to choose a previously required Knowledge Source.

In 2020, those taking the ABOS WLA knew in advance from which Knowledge Source each question would come. That was very popular with Diplomates and will continue this year. The 2021 ABOS WLA platform will be very similar to that of 2020, allowing Diplomates to choose Knowledge Sources and answer questions as they did last year.

However, the ABOS is introducing a big change in the ABOS WLA program for 2021, involving the criteria that are used to determine whether a Diplomate has successfully completed the ABOS WLA program. Unlike an ABOS Computer-Based or Oral Recertification Examination, Diplomates must participate in the ABOS WLA over multiple years. For the first two years of the ABOS WLA, there have been two different ways to meet those requirements, which has caused significant confusion among Diplomates. To ease the confusion, all Diplomates will need to earn five Quality Years (correctly answering at least 24 questions each year) to successfully complete the ABOS WLA Assessment Program. In 2020, more than 99 percent of Diplomates who participated in the program earned a Quality Year.

For Diplomates whose ABOS Board Certification expires in 2025 or earlier, they still need to earn five consecutive Quality Years, whereas those after 2025 must earn five Quality Years by the end of the eighth year of their 10-year Maintenance of Certification (MOC) cycle. The ABOS has contacted all Diplomates who will be negatively impacted by the change and made appropriate arrangements in those cases. Most Diplomates will not be impacted by this change—it will make it easier to understand the requirements and allow participants to reliably chart their course in the program.

Diplomates can currently review and choose Knowledge Sources but cannot begin answering questions until the Assessment Window opens on April 6. The Assessment Window closes on May 25. If you recently became ABOS Board Certified or Recertified, you may not want to think about Recertification. However, the sooner you begin the ABOS WLA, the more chances you have to be successful. It also allows you the opportunity to skip a year or two if needed without losing eligibility.

Diplomates who have not yet participated in the ABOS WLA and are interested should first look through the Knowledge Sources and find the 15 for which they will be assessed. Diplomates should also use the sample questions so they know how the questions are delivered. When answering the questions, you can have the Knowledge Source printed out or on your screen, and you have three minutes to answer each question. Last year, it took Diplomates less than a minute on average to answer each question. Although you will know from which Knowledge Source each question will come, you will still need to have read and understand each Knowledge Source prior to beginning each question.

In January, ABOS Executive Medical Director David Martin, MD, FAAOS, hosted a webinar about the 2021 ABOS WLA. If you missed the webinar, it is housed on www.abos.org. You can also listen to an audio-only version of the webinar through the ABOS podcast at anchor.fm/abos. The ABOS has also created a tutorial video to show you how to use the ABOS WLA platform, which can be found at www.abos.org.

As a reminder, the ABOS WLA is just one way to meet the Knowledge Assessment portion of ABOS’ MOC program. Diplomates can still opt to take an ABOS Computer-Based or ABOS Oral Recertification Examination. No matter which Knowledge Assessment pathway is chosen, Diplomates still must meet the other parts of MOC requirements, including an Application, a Case List, continuing medical education activities, and Self-Assessment activities.

The ABOS WLA has run smoothly for the past two years—it takes a lot of people to make it a success. There are many orthopaedic surgeons who have taken time away from their practices to determine which Knowledge Sources are appropriate and write the questions. ABOS appreciates the help from AAOS and the subspecialty societies in recommending these subject-matter experts. The journals and their publishers work hard to give Diplomates access to the Knowledge Sources. Even if you decide not to participate in the ABOS WLA, it is useful to see what Knowledge Sources leading orthopaedic surgeons deem to be important. There is a listing of all Knowledge Sources available at www.abos.org. ABOS also appreciates the hard work of the staff and a small group of contractors who helped create and maintain the program.

If you have any questions about the ABOS WLA, call the ABOS office at 919-929-7103, and a Certification Specialists will help you.

James D. Kang, MD, FAAOS, is chair of the ABOS MOC Committee.