The “Continuing Board Certification: Vision for the Future” Commission submitted its final report to the American Board of Medical Specialties Board of Directors on Feb. 13, 2019, thereby concluding their work to review the framework and purpose of the continuing certification of physicians. Their final report details a set of recommendations to overhaul the current certification process and create the principles, frameworks and program models of a new continuing board certification system.

“As a community, we are committed to working with our stakeholders to improve the continuing certification process so that it becomes a system that demonstrates the profession’s commitment to professional self-regulation, offers a consistent and clear understanding of what continuing certification means, and establishes a meaningful and relevant program that brings value to a physician’s practice and meets the highest standard of quality patient care,” ABMS said in a statement.

The foundational recommendation states that “continuing certification must integrate professionalism, assessment, lifelong learning and advancing practice to determine the continuing certification status of a diplomate.” The elements should be multi-sourced and based on the cognitive and technical skills and competencies required for optimal patient care in each specialty. The ABMS should develop standards that require ongoing diplomate engagement in activities that are relevant to current practice, rather than relegating engagement to every two, five or 10 years.

Additional recommendations are as follows.

  • Continuing certification must change to incorporate longitudinal and other assessment strategies that support learning, identify knowledge and skills gaps, and help diplomates stay current.
  • The ABMS Boards must enable multi-specialty and subspecialty diplomates to remain certified across multiple ABMS Boards without duplication of effort.
  • The ABMS Boards must make publicly available the certification history of all diplomates, and facilitate voluntary re-engagement into the certification process for those not currently participating.
  • ABMS must seek input from stakeholders to develop consistent approaches to evaluate professionalism and professional standing while ensuring due process for the diplomate when questions of professionalism arise.
  • ABMS should collaborate with expert stakeholders to develop the infrastructure to support learning activities that produce data-driven advances in clinical practice, and must ensure the certification programs recognize and document participation in a wide range of quality assessment activities in which diplomates already engage.

The commission recommended abandoning the term “Maintenance of Certification” in favor of a new term that better communicates the concept, intent and expectations of continuing certification programs to “reengage disaffected diplomats and assure the public and other stakeholders that the certificate has enduring meaning and value.”

The three-phase “Vision Initiative” involved physicians, professional medical organizations, national specialty and state medical societies, hospitals and health systems, the general public, and the 24 ABMS member boards. Together, they comprised a commission that has led the effort throughout 2018 and early 2019.

The ABMS Board of Directors will now develop a framework for addressing and operationalizing the commission’s recommendations over the next year, five years and beyond. Download the final report at https://visioninitiative.org.


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