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Article-Based Learning and Assessment in Quarterly Questions

“Must-read” articles from the peer-reviewed literature play a pivotal role in the American Board of Ophthalmology’s (ABO) Quarterly Questions assessment program. Launched in 2017, the program measures “walking around knowledge” based on the things ophthalmologists see and do every day before challenging participants to use recent journal articles to build new practice-related knowledge. Each year, participants answer 40 knowledge-based questions and 10 article-based questions.

ABO CEO George B. Bartley, M.D., emeritus Editor-in-Chief of Ophthalmology, has long championed the value of peer-reviewed articles as a tool for lifelong learning and physician improvement. “Even the best-intentioned ophthalmologist can have trouble keeping up with the literature in one’s subspecialty, let alone in ophthalmology as a specialty and the wider field of medicine,” he said. “Including key articles in our Quarterly Questions program has, thus far, been well-received by our colleagues in the diplomate community.”

To compile the yearly journal article listing, panels of ABO subject matter experts review published papers for timeliness, relevance, and application to practice. In the first two years of the program, articles have been selected from the New England Journal of Medicine, Ophthalmology, the American Journal of Ophthalmology, and JAMA Ophthalmology as well as a range of subspecialty journals. Article topics have ranged from discussions of patient safety to the effects of smoking to risk factors for macular edema following cataract surgery. Ophthalmologists participating in the ABO’s MOC program can access all Quarterly Questions articles at no cost through the ABO website.

Preliminary analysis of the Quarterly Questions program has been extremely favorable, earning the support of ABO diplomates as an approach to learning and assessment. Nearly 20% of the ABO’s active diplomate population participated in the program’s optional pilot year, with 94% reporting that the article-based questions were useful for learning new, relevant information. Eighty-five percent of participants said the information they learned while completing the activity would help them provide better care to their patients in the future and 99% said they would recommend the program to a colleague.

According to ABO Psychometrician Sarah D. Schnabel, Ph.D., “Assessing diplomates on new research in ophthalmology through journal articles is a strong supplement to the knowledge questions. While knowledge questions cover core and subspecialty ophthalmic knowledge, the article-based assessment promotes learning new information and integrating those concepts into practice.”

Combining key, peer-reviewed, and peer-selected articles with physician assessment is a key element of the ABO’s vision for the future of continuing certification.

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