What is ‘Board Certification’ and what does it mean?

Does it make that much of a difference whether or not your doctor is “board certified”?

Innovation in Hospital System
October 14, 2021
AI Biotech




What is board certification? While you may have heard of the term before, you may not fully understand its implications. Does it make that much of a difference whether or not your doctor is “board certified”?

What's board certification

While the path to becoming a doctor requires hard work and dedication no matter how you spin it, some doctors go above and beyond the usual curriculum. Obtaining “board certification”, in a nutshell, is exactly that. Doctors who have obtained this title are doctors who have gone further in their training and education to obtain additional certification in their chosen specialties — the highest accreditation possible.

Doctors who obtain board certification are doctors who have displayed knowledge and expertise comparable to the greatest and brightest minds in their fields of specialty. Doctors must undergo years of additional education, the exact duration of which is dependent on their field of choice, and must also undergo extensive oral and written examinations. Indicative of their extensive training, knowledge, and clinical skills, the end examination is reviewed by peers in their fields, ensuring there is little to no bias in the process of gaining this accolade.

Board certified doctors are doctors who have completed their medical degree, completed postgraduate training, and have provided assessment letters from residency programs that allow for unrestricted medical licenses. Even after they are certified, doctors must continue to maintain knowledge and experience of the highest form to be valid for renewals of their certification.

Some board certification requires doctors retake their oral and/or written examinations. The ABMS, for example, has a program specifically for recertification called the Maintenance of Certification.

Recertification every so often ensures doctors stay at the top of their game throughout their years as a medical practitioner. But what about the different kinds of board certification? How do they differ?

Board certification differs depending on which organization grants the title to a doctor. Many institutions around the world offer accreditation, with some of the most well-known being The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), The American Board of Dermatology, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Board of Physician Specialties.

The aforementioned are organizations that provide a range of accreditations, as doctors within their organization specialize in many different fields, allowing them to credit fellow doctors who may be seeking accreditation. However, there are many smaller organizations that do not adhere to a larger scale operation. Thus, you may find accreditation from all over the world.

Many patients may believe accreditation from larger organizations gives more credence, as perhaps higher standards are met. This is, however, untrue. Board certification, regardless of from where, requires the peer revision of the best and brightest in their fields, ensuring every accredited doctor is highly capable.

Some doctors choose to obtain board certification in more than one field, showing their experience and capabilities in more than one specialty. It should be noted that being board certified is not mandatory and is an entirely optional additional accreditation, and is not the sole factor in determining the qualities of a doctor.

All in all, the importance of board certification truly depends on each individual person. Some argue it is an extra step that doesn’t necessarily prove a medical practitioner is any more capable, and some even argue it is a waste of time, as they believe the best experience is attained through practice rather than study. Furthermore, it is often argued recertification requires time and attention that could instead be prioritized for patient care and recovery.

To further back these claims, research done to compare the effectiveness of certified doctors against uncertified doctors is inconclusive, but this may also be due to the fact that the studies vary in their methods and measured variables.

That said, many doctors advocate for board certification as it is definitive proof that accredited doctors put in extra time and effort to guarantee their skills are tuned to the highest possible level. For this reason, insurers, health care providers, and patients usually look to accreditation for confidence, if all else, as it ensures the doctor in question is fully qualified.

In your search for the right doctor for your needs, accreditation should certainly be taken into factor, but it shouldn’t be treated as a badge of guaranteed perfection. It is important to take note of the clinic at large, at fellow user reviews, and the international standings of the doctors and medical center as well.

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