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

Jun 08, 2006, 01:00 ET from American Board of Internal Medicine

    PHILADELPHIA, June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- 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
     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.

SOURCE American Board of Internal Medicine