By Dr. Alan Babigian, President, Connecticut Society of Plastic Surgeons
In today’s healthcare system, more than ever, patients must become engaged and active participants in their own health care. In fact, the Joint Commission has called on patients to become “well-informed consumers of health care.” It is a critical element of patient safety today.
Selecting a surgeon is a serious decision and checking credentials is an important tool that patients use to inform their choices. Board Certification should be a mechanism that lets patients know that they are choosing a physician who has completed years of education and training and who is qualified to practice their specialty. As a credential, Board Certification is meant to demonstrate that a physician has achieved and maintains the rigorous professional and educational standards established for a given specialty. Unfortunately, that is not always the case today as physicians may use the term “Board Certification” without meeting the demanding standards required by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). There are, in fact, multiple “certifying boards” that physicians can subscribe to, and these “boards” may not have met the exacting standards set forth by the ABMS.
Since 1933, the ABMS Member Boards have been certifying doctors to help assure patients as well as hospitals, health plans, insurers and the government that these doctors are qualified to provide expert health care in an ever-expanding number of medical specialties and subspecialties. In order to become board certified in a specialty recognized by the ABMS, a physician must meet strict criteria for education and training, must pass rigorous examinations, and must periodically recertify as well. There are currently 24 certifying boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), including the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Patients often assume that some authority has verified the integrity of the information that they are using to select providers. They rely on a certifying body to ensure that credentials used in advertising are appropriate. Currently, that may not be the case as the term “Board Certification” is being used by some providers without them having met the high standards established by the ABMS.
The Facts About Board Certification:
What does “board-certified” mean? Why should I choose a board-certified doctor?
A doctor that is “board-certified” is a verified expert in a medical specialty or subspecialty. In order to become board-certified, a doctor must meet the profession-driven standards and requirements of one or more of the certifying boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). These doctors are required to continue their medical education and remain informed of updates to their field.
To become/remain board certified, a doctor must:
Demonstrate an ability to investigate and evaluate patient care practices using scientific evidence
Provide compassionate, appropriate, and effective care for patients
Practice medicine in the larger context of the health system and utilize resources appropriately
Be knowledgeable about established and evolving sciences and their application in patient care
Communicate effectively with patients, families, and colleagues
Remain professional at all times
Are all doctors board-certified? How do I check if my doctor is board certified?
Not all doctors are board-certified, so it is always a good idea to check with your doctor or online.
It is easy to find out if your doctor is board-certified online! Click on the following link and type in your doctor’s information: www.certificationmatters.org If your doctor is certified, he/she will be listed.
For osteopathic doctors, you should look for any specialty certification from one of the 18 boards of the AOA. For a full list of osteopathic specialties, click here: https://certification.osteopathic.org/.