Approximately 90% of practicing physicians in the U.S. are board-certified. While this is a fairly high percentage, it still shows that a number of doctors practicing in the U.S. without board certification. Receiving medical care from a qualified and competent physician is important when it comes to your healthcare. Take a look at the following information to understand what board certification means and why it is so important.
What is Medical Board Certification?
A doctor must demonstrate and meet a level of competency in the field of medicine. A medical board is an organization that has a set of minimum requirements that must be met to gain membership. By gaining membership, doctors achieve a level of competency that is respected among colleagues and patients. On the other hand, non-certified doctors are, more likely than not, deemed as less competent due to their inability or unwillingness to meet the minimum membership requirements.
When reviewing board certification standards and the status of your doctor, start your search with these medical boards:
• American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)
• American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS)
• American Osteopathic Association(AOA)
If your doctor is not certified by one of these more prominent medical boards, then check the doctor’s website to see if they mention their board certification. Another option is to look at the doctor’s affiliated hospital or practice to search for a board certification statement.
Difference Between Licensed and Board-Certified
Licensed and board-certified are two terms that can cause great confusion if you are a patient. You’ll want to understand the distinction between the two because licensed and board-certified are not equal. Doctors must be licensed to practice medicine in the state of New York. Licensing requires that doctors be of good moral character, at least 21 years of age, and meet certain educational, exam, and experience requirements. If you are a practicing doctor in New York, then you are licensed. Compared to the board certification process and requirements, the licensing requirements are not as stringent. Board certified doctors go through rigorous training and exams to gain expertise and certification in specialized fields such as oncology, pain management, anesthesiology, etc.
Here’s a simplified breakdown:
• A medical license means the doctor is an MD or DO, passed the 3 USMLE examinations, underwent a 1-3 year residency, and was given a state medical license.
• Board Certification means completion of ABMS, ABPS, or AOA specialty training and examination in addition to the medical license requirements.
Why is Board Certification Important?
Once a doctor is board-certified, his or her skills, knowledge, and expertise in medicine meet the gold standard as it relates to quality of care. When a doctor completes the rigorous training and exams to become a specialist in a particular field of medicine, they have advanced knowledge to provide you a high level of medical care.
Be careful: just because you see certificates and awards on the wall does not mean a doctor is board-certified. If you want to find out if a physician is board-certified, find the website of that specific board and check the credentialing requirements yourself.
How to Verify Board Certification
So what should you look for to verify that a doctor possesses the appropriate certification? The following steps will help you verify a doctor’s board-certification status.
• Use websites to check board association • Go to one of the doctor’s rating websites • Check the medical licensing information in New York (it’s public!)
• If you don’t see a doctor’s name listed for a particular medical board, remember there is a process of certification and then re-certification. The website may not be updated with the new status yet, so call the medical board instead.
To find out if your MD is board-certified, access the American Board of Medical Specialties Web site at www.abms.org or call 1-866-275-2267. Patients who would like to check the certification status of a DO can visit the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Web site at www.osteopathic.org or call the Member Service Center at 1-800-621-1773, option 1 on the menu.
For more information on board certification, reference the following websites: