Does Board Certification Matter?

Not All Doctors Are Certified

Doctor explaining prescription medication to patient in clinic
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Does board certification matter?

A friend recently called me and asked this question after moving to a new community. She was looking for doctors for her family. She heard wonderful things about a particular doctor, had met them socially, but on further investigation learned her new prospective doctor was not board certified. She called me to find out what I thought.

Many different doctors can care for asthma including:

All have training requirements that lead towards board eligibility. Board certification generally requires participation in an accredited training program and then passing a board exam that may consist of both oral and written examinations.

What Does Board Certification Mean?

Board certification is not required to get a license to practice medicine in any state, although some hospitals, insurance companies, and practice groups do require board certification in order to affiliate.

More recently most boards have implemented maintenance of certification requirements. While this process has been controversial amongst older physicians that are not required to participate due to lifetime certification, participation in a maintenance of certification program is associated with increased medical knowledge, clinical care, and improved communication with patients and peers.

Maintenance of certification is one indicator of a commitment to meet quality standards that go beyond what is needed to obtain a medical license. It is also an objective way for patients to evaluate if a doctor has the knowledge, experience, and skills needed to offer high-quality patient care.

Why Would Board Certification Matter?

Quality experts have stated for some time that good quality results from good structure and processes.

This was the thought behind ​the maintenance of certification programs. While good doctors will hopefully develop a process that optimizes self-improvement in their specialty and staying up to date, there are a number of factors that might impact the process.

There are certainly benefits to the physician such as prestige in addition to economic benefits and increased employment opportunities. Despite the controversies, more than 90% of U.S. physicians are board certified.

Patients view certification as important and many are bothered if their doctor chooses to not maintain board certification. In fact, the only factor patients find more important is the physician’s communication skills. Board certification was more important than a recommendation from a friend or the school the doctor attended.

While many patients incorrectly thought board certification was required to practice medicine, nearly 1 in 4 said they would look for another doctor if they found out that their doctor was not board certified.

Does Board Certified Mean Better Care?

Surprisingly it is difficult to definitively say that board certified doctors or those in a maintenance of certification program provide better care. A moderate positive association was found between care received following heart attacks and in diabetes when comparing certified versus uncertified physicians. Additionally, certification has been associated with increased satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

A lot of different factors impact the quality of your asthma care. Board certification is important, but not the only factor.

Sources

  1. Does Board Certification Really Matter?. Pharmacotherapy Volume 34, pages 799–802, Number 8, 2014.

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