Board certification is a voluntary process intended to demonstrate expertise in a specific medical specialty.
Medical board certification differs from medical licensure, which documents the minimum competency required to diagnose and treat patients. Medical licensure is not specialty-specific, and in the United States is administered by boards of medical licensure in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.
Board certification in internal medicine is overseen by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). The ABIM is an independent, not-for-profit, physician-led organization that certifies physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialties. The ABIM is one of 24 boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the umbrella group that determines the educational and professional standards for medical certification that must be used by the medical specialty boards in the US. The ABIM is the only ABMS-approved board to provide certification in internal medicine.
Although board certification is not required for medical licensure and the ability to practice medicine, it is an important credential frequently required by healthcare organizations and insurance plans as a condition for employment or participation. It is also generally highly valued by patients and is viewed by many as a minimum requirement for their physician when looking for medical care. Board certification is also important to residency training programs that are typically assessed on the ability of their trainees to successfully achieve initial board certification.
Following initial board certification, the ABMS also requires ongoing assessment of knowledge and professionalism for continued certification, a process known as Maintenance of Certification (MOC).