One of the first items on any checklist for locating a doctor, especially when you need a specialist, is whether the doctor is “Board Certified“. Certification in a specialty, which includes Primary Care, is voluntary. Therefore, as stated by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) at the link above, doctors who qualify for this distinction are demonstrating a “commitment and expertise in consistently achieving superior clinical outcomes in a responsive, patient-focused setting”. Patients can measure a doctor’s ability to provide quality healthcare by determining if the doctor is Board Certified.
While Board Certification has never been an easy process, once earned it was granted to a doctor without a time limitation. There was no renewal or re-certification requirement. That changed in 2000 when ABMS and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) identified 6 core competencies that doctors achieving Board Certification status after that time would need to demonstrate (every 6 to 10 years depending on the specialty) in order to retain their Board Certified status. They are:
- Patient Care
- Medical Knowledge
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills
- Systems-Based Practice
- Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
The ABMS website provides a wealth of information for an aware consumer, including the ability to determine if your doctor is Board Certified. While doctors who qualified prior to the change in 2000 are not required to re-certify, they are being encouraged to do so. Does it mean that your “older” doctor is not qualified if he/she chooses not to re-certify? Absolutely not. However, a doctor who does choose to re-certify will have a new credential for patients to consider when selecting a new Primary Care doctor or assessing a referral from their Primary Care Doctor to a Specialist.
So, next time you’re in your Doctor’s office and spot that Board Certification plaque, check the expiration date!