Beginning next year, ob/gyn programs will start using an independent system for processing residency applications, rather than the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).
The joint decision to switch to the new system was made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO), and the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG). The new system will be managed by Liaison International, which uses "Centralized Application Service (CAS) technology," according to the company's website.
A joint statement on the APGO website said that the new system "will be user friendly and efficient, less expensive for applicants, and will directly decrease the burdens faced by program directors, program managers, and applicants alike," and "will incorporate the entirety of interview season functions, from application submission, review, interview offers and interviews, to rank list submission."
ACOG explained that the decision to pull the ERAS stemmed from the Right Resident, Right Program, Ready Day One initiative, noting that the new system is mobile-friendly and "will include immediate fee reduction," as detailed on their FAQ page.
In response, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which runs ERAS and the Match, issued a statement attributed to President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Alison J. Whelan, MD, the chief academic officer, saying they were "surprised and dismayed" by the decision. They also said the organization was worried about losing ob/gyn program data, which has been used for longstanding research and analytics.
"While it is too early to fully understand the consequences of this development -- intended and unintended -- the AAMC remains committed to creating a fair and equitable process for learners, medical schools, and programs," they wrote.
Bryan Carmody, MD, of Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, shared information about the change on social media, writing on his blog that ob/gyn program directors helped to pilot ERAS when it was first rolled out in the mid-90s.
Carmody told MedPage Today that he anticipates the biggest downsides will fall on applicants, such as those who want to apply to another specialty in addition to ob/gyn.
"Those applicants will have to use one system to apply to ob/gyn and another to their other specialty," he explained. "The same thing applies to applicants who fail to match. They'll have to use ERAS to apply to another specialty during SOAP [Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program] since few, if any, ob/gyn positions are typically available."
Conversely, he pointed to "flexibility, customizability, better analytics, [and] more generous data sharing with programs from the sponsor" as potential benefits.
Other specialties, like ophthalmology and plastic surgery, have been using their own residency applications for years, but Carmody isn't sure if others will follow in the footsteps of ob/gyn.
"There's a lot of inertia that would have to be overcome. At the same time, I don't think many residency programs have any deep brand loyalty to ERAS. If applicants and ob/gyn programs have a good experience with the new system, it certainly could create momentum that would encourage other specialties to follow suit," he said.
Morgan Levy, a medical student in the MD/MPH program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is in the last class of prospective ob/gyn residents applying through ERAS. She said that the switch to a new system is the latest in a series of changes to the residency and Match process.
"I think there's been a pretty concerted effort by medical education leadership in all specialties to really reform the residency application process," she noted. "As these new interventions they're trying are working more and more, they're more and more compelled to adopt them in a way that suits their fields the best."
Applying for residency is already demanding, and Levy noted that some parts of the process have been distracting to fourth-year medical students who are also trying to make the most of their studies. She said some previous changes -- like universal interview dates and virtual interviews -- have helped to combat the added stress and made the process more equitable. Now, many students don't have to spend thousands of dollars traveling for interviews in addition to the cost of the applications themselves.
ACOG, APGO, and CREOG will release webinars with more information for applicants and program directors at a later date.