profession

ABMS establishes time limits for attaining board certification

New policy is intended to prevent abuse of the term "board eligible" by restricting how long physicians can wait before becoming certified in their specialty.

By Carolyne Krupa — Posted March 5, 2012

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Physicians no longer have an indefinite amount of time to achieve board certification.

A new American Board of Medical Specialties rule requires doctors to be certified three to seven years after completing residency training. Time limits will vary by specialty, with each of the ABMS 24 member boards to set policy by April 16.

The goal is to prevent confusion about the term "board eligible," said ABMS President and CEO Kevin B. Weiss, MD, MPH. ABMS and its member boards have never recognized the term. However, credentialing organizations have used it for decades to identify physicians who are becoming certified.

Problems arise when physicians use the phrase to describe themselves when they are not actively pursuing board certification, Dr. Weiss said.

"There are a very small number of physicians who will maintain the status of board eligible for an extraordinarily long amount of time," said Daniel L. Barrow, MD, chair of the American Board of Neurological Surgery. "It is dishonest, and it sends the wrong message to the public."

Physicians who abuse the term do it to create the impression that they have equivalent status -- or near-equivalent status -- to board-certified physicians, said James C. Puffer, MD, president and CEO of the American Board of Family Medicine.

On Feb. 7, ABMS announced the policy, which is retroactive to Jan. 1. Until now, the period between training and board certification was undefined, Dr. Weiss said. "This is to make it very clear to hospitals, health plans and other credentialers what is happening to that physician between completion of training and board certification," he added.

Keeping doctors current

Some specialty boards have developed their own policies. The ABFM board of directors voted in October 2011 to define board eligibility as the first seven years after residency training or loss of certification. To be board eligible, physicians must maintain a full, unrestricted medical license and meet ongoing requirements to sit for the board exam.

Most family physicians are certified within three years of completing residency, Dr. Puffer said. If they aren't certified after seven years, they must complete at least one more year of a family medicine residency.

Those seeking certification in neurosurgery will have seven years, said Dr. Barrow, MBNA/Bowman Professor and chair of the Dept. of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. Surgeons who don't meet the time restrictions must restart certification, which includes retaking the board's written exam and submitting 150 operative cases.

Across all specialties, physicians who have already begun the certification process will have to complete it between 2015 and 2019, Dr. Weiss said. Member boards also will determine how to sanction physicians who claim board eligibility past the time limits.

The new policy will allow physicians who have completed residency training but not yet taken the certification exam to show they are becoming certified, said William Iobst, MD, the American Board of Internal Medicine's vice president of academic affairs. At the same time, the policy will protect patients by reducing the chances that someone will misrepresent their credentials and practice beyond their expertise.

The American Board of Surgery supports the time limits to ensure that doctors remain current in their training, said Jo Buyske, MD, the board's associate executive director.

"Surgery is an ever-evolving field, and after too many years out of training, it is reasonable to believe that a surgeon may not be fully up to speed with the standard of care," she said.

"The time limits benefit patients by offering a clear delineation of those who have met the rigorous requirements of board certification and those who have not."

Back to top


External links

American Board of Medical Specialties board eligibility fact sheet (link)

ABMS board eligibility policy, adopted Sept. 21, 2011 (link)

Back to top


ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISE HERE


Featured
Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story


Read story

Goodbye

American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story


Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story


Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story


Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story


Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story


Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story


Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story