When you are looking for medical care for either you or your family member, you want to make sure you are seeing the most qualified doctor. Of course, you want a doctor who takes their time talking with you and truly cares about you, but you also want to make sure that your physician is up to date on the present-day medical literature and guidelines. This ensures that you receive the best treatment currently available based on all evidence and research. The best way to do this is to make sure your doctor is board certified. You may have heard this term but are not sure what it really means. To become a doctor, one must graduate medical school, internship, and residency. Then they must take a state licensing exam. However, after this some doctors decide to take an extra step to become board certified. Obtaining board certification is not mandatory for practicing medicine like the state license is. Many doctors go above and beyond the minimal requirements and choose to take the optional step of becoming board certified. This requires extra education and testing.
There are different boards for each specialty. Some boards even have subspecialties. For example, if you are a dermatologist, you can be board certified with The American Board of Dermatology, but they also offer sub-specialty certification in dermatopathology and pediatric dermatology. Be aware that not all boards are equal when it comes to requirement for membership. The most well-known boards are The American Board of Medical Specialties which comprises 40 specialties and 87 subspecialties, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Board of Physician Specialties. These boards have a minimum set of competency standards. There are some boards that do not require those competencies for various reasons and are not members of these organizations. Almost all boards require you to take and pass a written test in order to achieve board certification. Some boards also require oral exams. Most boards continue to require retesting throughout your career to remain board certified. Thus, even if your doctor was once board certified, it does not mean they currently still are. The best way to see if your doctor or the doctor you are thinking of scheduling an appointment with is board certified is to check on the corresponding board’s website. For example, on the website for The American Board of Allergy and Immunology there is a link (https://www.abai.org/doctors) to search for a physician’s name to see if they are currently up to date with board certification.
Research and technology advances medicine rapidly resulting in new testing, new treatment options, and updated guidelines. Consequently, it is very important that all physicians are constantly studying and reading the literature. Board certification ensures that they do so. According to The American Board of Medical Specialties, you can be confident that a board-certified physician “is skilled and knowledgeable, an expert in their specialty, and meets a higher standard developed and overseen by volunteer doctors.” When you are finding the doctor right for you, feel free to read the online reviews but remember to take the extra step to make sure that he or she is board certified in the specialty they are practicing.