Is Your Doctor Keeping Up?
Board Certification is a meaningful indicator that a physician has the knowledge, experience, and skills necessary to provide high quality patient care.
Philadelphia, PA, June 8, 2006 – Medical science changes at an astonishing rate. Is your doctor keeping up?
Lifelong learning has become not only desirable, but essential, for doctors to stay current in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. According to Dr. Christine Cassel, President and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), "Ongoing learning and enhancement of knowledge and skill is essential to high quality care and helps all physicians improve the quality of patient care they provide."
Although it makes sense that physicians with more experience would have accumulated more knowledge and skill—that practice makes perfect—findings published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in February of last year suggest that physician performance declines over time. This seems to suggest that experience in medicine may make doctors expert at old ways of doing things—and lead to lower, not higher, quality care.
There are 24 certifying boards in the United States recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. ABIM is the largest. Most doctors voluntarily seek board Certification—which in the past was good for a lifetime. Doctors certified more recently must recertify periodically, but many older physicians do not have to. These doctors may have standards of practice that do not reflect current recommendations.
Certification is designed to assure the public that a physician has knowledge that is broad, deep, and current. The boards' programs for maintenance of Certification try to assure that physicians maintain and enhance that knowledge—and effectively apply it in their practice. Doctors can demonstrate their commitment to ongoing learning through participating in these programs.
"The Maintenance of Certification program helps physicians improve the quality of patient care," said John Rother, Director of Policy and Strategy for AARP. "Maintenance of Certification is designed to promote better doctor-patient communications, better outcomes, and higher patient satisfaction."
There is something you can do. More and more physicians with lifetime certificates are voluntarily recertifying, recognizing the importance and value of ongoing learning. But many still do not. Ask your doctors if they are maintaining their board certificates—and if the answer is no, you may want to encourage them to do so. You can't afford out-of-date health care.
Editor's Note: Dr. Cassel is available for media interviews.
For more than 75 years, certification by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) has stood for the highest standard in internal medicine and its 19 subspecialties and has meant that internists have demonstrated – to their peers and to the public – that they have the clinical judgment, skills and attitudes essential for the delivery of excellent patient care. ABIM is not a membership society, but a non-profit, independent evaluation organization. Our accountability is both to the profession of medicine and to the public. ABIM is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties. For additional updates, follow ABIM on Facebook and Twitter.