Perspective on Changes to the Recertification Process for American Physicians

Medical Board RecertificationThe concept of recertification is nothing new among the healthcare field. For decades, medical doctors have understood that they have an obligation to periodically become recertified in their specialty, ensuring that they are up-to-date in their field and able to provide the best standard of care to their patients. Recertification was also an effective tool for demonstrating to staffing bodies, employers, and hospital groups the physician’s expertise in his or her specialty. However, the problem with the old way of recertification, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) was the concept of this “periodic” recertification. It was their argument that physicians should be participating in continuous professional development, which led to the creation of the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program that has sparked such controversy within the medical community.

Maintenance of Certification: Does It Require Too Much Time?

The MOC is designed to standardize the recertification process across a variety of medical specialties. While the standards vary depending on the field of medicine, this largely entails a significant commitment from physicians to devote time to studying and preparing for standardized testing in order to maintain their certification. This program further institutes other hurdles toward recertification, such as mandating a stringent time limit for establishing board certification, and a financial commitment from the physicians seeking board certification. This has led to some frustration among physicians because the clear advantage to the MOC hasn’t been effectively established, and many physicians are growing concerned about the intrusive requirements established in this program. And while the ABMS considers the MOC program voluntary, maintaining active board certification is required by many staffing agencies and has significant insurance implications. Perhaps the biggest issue physicians have with MOC rules is that they make maintaining certification too burdensome, forcing them to devote far more time and effort to the maintenance process rather than actually caring for patients.

MOC Rules Can Be Counterproductive for Healthcare

One of the arguments against stringent MOC rules is that they could contribute to worsening the physician shortage. It’s not a far-fetched concern. Physicians near retirement age, or who have spent decades under certification rules that required only occasional recertification, might forego MOC and simply retire. Another potential fallout is that rural areas will remain underserved by physicians because if hospitals and insurers require MOC, attracting well-qualified physicians to those areas may prove more difficult.

It is important to note, however, that physicians seeking board certification or recertification have options. At the American Board of Physician Specialties we require our Diplomates to obtain recertification every eight years and have stringent eligibility requirements in place, but do not require any MOC participation. Instead, we place priority on our physicians delivering consistently exceptional, patient-centric care.

The ABPS Is a Nationally Recognized Choice for Recertification

Physician specialists who are board certified through the ABMS can become recertified through the ABPS if they meet the eligibility requirements for their particular specialty exam. Regardless of whether you earned board certification through the ABMS, the AOA, or the ABPS, we encourage you to thoroughly research your recertification options. You may find that ABPS is more in line with your values and offers you opportunities that you might not find elsewhere. After all, we are a nationally recognized certification body, offering certification and recertification in 18 different specialties, including several innovative specialties—disaster medicine and integrative medicine, for instance.

If you would like to learn more about our physician board recertification standards, contact us today. The ABPS is the official board certifying body of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc.


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On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine