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The American College of Physicians Comments on ABMS Draft Standards for Continuing Certification

PHILADELPHIA, PA, June 29, 2021 — The American College of Physicians (ACP) continues to advocate for improvements in certification policies and procedures to meet the needs of internal medicine specialists and subspecialists, improve the value of certification, reduce administrative burdens, and minimize financial burdens. ACP recently submitted comments on the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) draft for new Standards for Continuing Certification for implementation by member boards. In the comments, ACP:

  • Advises inclusion of a new standard to address the need for financial stewardship, transparency of financial interests, and full resolution of conflicts of interest during development and implementation of certification standards.
  • Urges ABMS to require that member boards inform hospitals, health systems, payers, and other health care organizations that continuing certification should not be the only criterion used in credentialing and privileging decisions, and must encourage these organizations to not deny credentialing or privileging to a physician solely on the basis of certification status.
  • Recommends refining the draft standards to ensure that due process and communication standards are equitably applied, and that boards adjust processes to minimize administrative and financial burdens.
  • Calls upon boards to demonstrate best practices in quality improvement and implementation science by facilitating research about the value of continuing certification, the impact of certification on physicians as individuals, and the impact of certification on the physician workforce.
  • Cautions that there is a lack of evidence to support increased frequency of summative certification decisions, and recommends maintenance of a 10 year cycle as the minimum frequency for voluntary continuing certification decisions for diplomates who are otherwise engaged with continual certification processes.
  • Cautions ABMS that psychometrically validated methods are lacking to link individual physician board certification decisions with engagement in a board-derived quality agenda, and that diplomates should be credited for the many ways in which they already respond to quality metrics and reports. ACP also states boards should invite participation in voluntary pilot programs that are designed to recognize a wide range of activities that support improvements in care, to assess not only learning value and clinical outcomes, but also administrative and financial burden.

“ACP is committed to ongoing professional development and lifelong learning for continuing certification programs that emphasize learning, offer flexibility and choice, and that meet the needs of internal medicine specialists and subspecialists as well as the patients they serve,” said George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, FACP, President, ACP. “We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with ABMS and others to help shape the future of continuing certification programs for internal medicine physicians.”

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Laura Baldwin, (215) 351-2668, lbaldwin@acponline.org