Specialty board certification for doctors has become an integral part of the quality movement in healthcare even though it hasn't received the attention of well-publicized efforts by organizations such as the Leapfrog Group and the National Quality Forum, according to a new study in Sept. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study also presents general findings from a Gallup Organization public opinion poll, which show that patients would change or select doctors based on their specialty certification. Three out of four adults said they would place board certification above the recommendations of trusted family or friends when choosing a doctor.
"The key question that patients ask with regard to quality is, 'How do I find a good physician?' The answer often involves certification status," the study said.
After initial certification, doctors in the U.S. must complete a program of comprehensive requirements developed by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the umbrella organization for 24 major medical boards. New and expanded requirements, introduced in 2003, include "lifelong learning," periodic self-assessment and an evaluation of performance in practices.
"Given the evidence, we think certification and maintenance of certification should be an essential part of national efforts to improve quality of care," said Troyen Brennan, M.D., lead author of the journal article and chairman of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the president of Brigham and Women's Physicians Organization.