As we look forward to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Conference 2021 this week, I wanted to reflect on the last year and how the healthcare assessment landscape has evolved.
The impact of the pandemic on the healthcare community has been enormous. Teams and individuals have needed to adopt new ways of working, and many employees have been asked to rapidly upskill or reskill to meet changing demands. People have been stretched to their limits to the detriment of both their mental and physical health.
At the same time, when we have needed qualified healthcare professionals more than ever, the pandemic introduced barriers to the certification and re-certification required to ensure public safety and quality patient care. And because public safety is at risk, the assessments involved with healthcare certification must involve the very highest of high-stakes testing.
1. Flexibility with multi-modal testing
When it comes to physician board certification there has always been a need for quality improvement, professionalism, and continuous professional development. Current circumstances demand an added focus on the resilience and well-being of healthcare professionals. Flexibility is key to test delivery on all fronts, and multi-modal testing – where test takers have the option to either take a test in-person at a physical test center or remotely in their office or own home – offers this flexibility.
With online proctoring, a test taker is observed remotely using the webcam and microphone on their device. When Covid-19 hit and test centers worldwide were forced to close, we saw the rapid adoption of this technology. Before Covid-19, 85% to 90% of credentialing and certification exams were taken in-person with a physical proctor present. At the start of the pandemic this dropped to just 10%.
Even as most test centers have re-opened, online proctoring is still a popular choice for test takers, and numbers show no sign of returning to pre-pandemic levels. While test centers are still important, multi-modal testing is becoming the new norm.
2. Multi-layered test security
Test security remains of the utmost importance in healthcare certification and our research shows no increase in malpractice across online proctored and in-person testing. But as with any new technology, there are understandable concerns with the move online. PSI’s multi-layered and highly customizable approach addresses these with a wide range of measures:
- Multi-layer identity verification – the photo ID of every test taker is checked and verified before the start of any test.
- Lockdown browser – test takers are restricted to a full-screen testing environment where they are unable to access the internet, email, or other applications.
- Form methods to limit item exposure – varied test forms and item types mean test takers are less able to learn material and pass it on to others
- Linear-on-the-fly-testing (LOFT) – unique and equivalent test forms are generated for every test taker, boosting security and efficiency.
Preventing test misconduct is crucial, but in the event of failure to prevent it, detection is equally important. The in-house data forensics team here at PSI uses statistical detection methods, including our own proprietary algorithms, to identify unusual patterns in test data which might indicate malpractice. This not only helps to confirm any suspected issues with test security but also raise issues you aren’t yet aware of.
Web scanning further improves test security by programing web crawlers, like those used by search engines, to systematically browse the internet for proprietary test content. Any compromised content can be purchased, and we then work with testing organizations to agree on an appropriate response.
3. Test taker experience
Test security is of course vital, but the user experience is also important. It’s worth noting that despite the recent rapid adoption of online proctoring, the response from PSI test takers has been largely positive. 84% say the system was easy to use and 95% rate the experience as Excellent or Good. What’s more, research shows testing modality has no impact on performance. This reinforces the concept of offering test takers the option of various testing modalities in tandem based on program requirements and user preference.
Test taker experience is particularly important in the healthcare sector in the wake of the pandemic. And one of the key takeaways from the switch to online testing during the pandemic is that some issues experienced by test takers could be prevented with improved communication and access to resources like a system compatibility check leading up to test day.
One of the plenary sessions we look forward to at the ABMS Conference is Addressing Physician Well-being and Burnout — The Present and Future Role of Continuing Certification. This session speaks to the need for a strong test taker experience and clear communication with your test takers in a fast-changing environment.
Even though we can’t get together in person, we’re looking forward to seeing you virtually at the conference to discuss the latest in trends in healthcare certification, including the trends towards multi-modal testing, security advancements, and test taker experience discussed in this article.
Our testing solutions help certifying bodies within the healthcare profession maintain the highest quality standards while delivering a simple, secure, and convenient test taker experience. With 75+ years of healthcare testing experience, we understand how important it is to keep pace with medical and technological advancements and to ensure test takers maintain the necessary competence to practice. Click to learn more about PSI’s healthcare solutions.