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Expert offers clarification on informatics certification


By Joseph Conn
Posted: January 14, 2013 - 11:30 am ET
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Physicians interested in achieving board certification in the subspecialty of clinical informatics can receive some clarification on the process in a Jan. 13 blog post by Dr. William Hersh, professor and chairman of the department of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University.

Hersh is to lead a review course for candidates seeking to take the board exam, a course developed under the auspices of the American Medical Informatics Association, a long-time advocate for board certification in clinical informatics.

The board certification exam in clinical informatics is to be given for the first time by the American Board of Preventive Medicine between Oct. 7 and Oct. 18.

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Under guidelines released last month by the ABPM, for the next five years a “grandfathering” period will be in effect to accommodate physicians already working in medical informatics. During this period, candidates will be judged eligible for taking the exam after meeting three core criteria and are on one or the other or both of two “pathways.”

The core criteria are that a physician be a graduate of a U.S., Canadian or other medical school acceptable by the ABPM, have an unrestricted license to practice in the U.S. or Canada, and be board certified in a medical specialty by one of the 23 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

“The first of the two pathways is the 'practice pathway,' ” for those who have been working in medical informatics, such as in the position of chief medical informatics officer, at least 25% of their time and have a supervisor willing to attest to that level of participation, Hersh explained.

“The second pathway is the 'nontraditional fellowship,' which is any informatics fellowship of 24 or more months duration deemed acceptable by ABPM,” he said.

It also seems likely that candidates can augment shortfalls in one pathway with work spent in the other, he said.

However, researchers working under National Library of Medicine fellowship training grants may find it hard passing the exam without some outside additional academic training, Hersh said.

“Ironically, one activity for which there is no guarantee of being adequately prepared is a traditional research-oriented fellowship, such as those funded by NLM training grants,” he said.

“If one's course of study in one of these fellowships includes a course of study containing a good deal of practical clinical informatics courses, then that preparation should be excellent. However, not all informatics fellowships offer such coursework, as the primary purpose of the NLM-funded fellowships is to train future researchers. There may also be individuals in these fellowships who are extremely well-trained in other areas of informatics, such as bioinformatics or imaging informatics, who will technically be eligible for certification though not really well-prepared to pass an exam focused on practical clinical informatics,” he continued.

“Indeed, even those who have a clinically oriented but highly theoretical curriculum may not be able to pass the exam that will have a very practical and applied focus.”

Details about the AMIA's review course will be announced in February.

“The current working plan is to offer the course three times between June and September, after the ABPM registration period opens, but enough in advance of the actual exam.” Hersh said. Review courses could be offered on the West and East Coasts and the Midwest.

“The courses in the first year will be all face-to-face, although online versions will be developed for subsequent years,” he said.


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