November 27, 2023

ABA Research Compares In-Person and Virtual OSCEs

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Raleigh, N.C. (Nov.  27, 2023) – New recently published research from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) confirms that temporary, virtual examinations administered during the COVID-19 pandemic provided effective measures of success to certify candidates compared with those administered in the traditional format.

Like many organizations, the ABA had to develop an innovative approach to continue certifying physicians despite limitations in face-to-face interaction for public safety. As a result of the pandemic, the APPLIED Examination, the final exam in the ABA’s initial certification, was delivered virtually in 2021.

The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), a component of the APPLIED Exam, was administered in person in a dedicated assessment center from its inception in 2018 through 2020. It returned to an in-person format in 2022.

The retrospective analyses of first-time OSCEs published in the Journal of Clinical Anesthesia show comparable candidate performance and examiner grading severity between the in-person and virtual formats despite the virtual scenarios being more difficult than the in-person scenarios. These results provided assurance that the virtual OSCE functioned reasonably well in a high-stakes setting. Similar analyses of the first-time Standardized Oral Examinations, the other core component of the APPLIED Exam, are under review for possible publication.

“We are proud of the incredible work the ABA staff and volunteers did to adapt the APPLIED Exam and offer a virtual solution when needed; this research confirms that format was effective in assessing candidates while providing a reliable and valid examination,” said ABA Secretary Alex Macario, M.D., MBA. “While it was critical to return to in-person assessments to effectively mimic how our anesthesiologists work with patients in real clinical settings, we are grateful that this temporary model successfully allowed us to continue certifying candidates during an unprecedented time.”

The virtual APPLIED Exam was retrofitted and adapted as a temporary solution so candidates whose exams were canceled or would have been disrupted due to the global pandemic could complete their certification without delay. A major focus of the APPLIED Exam is to assess communication and professionalism, specifically during the OSCE component. A virtual administration cannot replicate these face-to-face interactions, and ultimately, the in-person structure allows for a more equitable and standardized experience.

ABA Directors Stacie G. Deiner, M.D.; and Mark T. Keegan, M.B., B.Ch.; ABA Chief Assessment Officer Ann Harman, Ph.D.; ABA Director of Psychometrics and Research Huaping Sun, Ph.D.; and Robert S. Isaak, D.O., authored this research, titled “A comparison of the American Board of Anesthesiology’s in-person and virtual objective structured clinical examinations.”

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ABA Media Contact
Mike Charbonneau
Chief Communications Officer
(919) 745-2233

About the American Board of Anesthesiology
Our mission is to advance the highest standards of the practice of anesthesiology. As the certifying body for anesthesiologists since 1938, we work with physicians to elevate practice standards and foster exceptional patient care. We administer initial and subspecialty certification exams as well as the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA) program, which is designed to promote lifelong learning, a commitment to quality clinical outcomes and patient safety. Based in Raleigh, NC, we are a nonprofit organization and a Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).