ABMS History of Improving Quality Care

Since 1933, ABMS has built a solid national system of standards for recognizing medical specialists and providing information to the public.

Establishing the Standards for Physician Certification

In June of 1933, representatives from the pioneering specialty boards (representing the specialties of Dermatology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Otolaryngology, in addition to Ophthalmology) and the major physician, hospital, medical education, and examination groups of the time met to talk about the education and certification of medical specialists. Together, they thought of building a national system of standards for recognizing specialists and providing information to the public.

Consensus was reached to establish a uniform system for specialty boards to administer examinations developed by experts from within the specialty. The group further concluded that the value of these boards would be maximized by establishing an advisory committee or council created by representatives from the official specialty boards. The result was the formation of the Advisory Board for Medical Specialties (today’s ABMS) – which created the framework for standards of excellence in the various specialties that physicians pursue and the public relies upon.

We periodically evolve the standards for medical specialty practice and certification to support advancements in medicine, science, technology, and the health care delivery process. The standards include guidelines which help the ABMS boards select learning programs and improvement activities, create assessment and evaluation systems, and pioneer effective new pathways for physicians to learn the latest innovations in their specialty.

Supporting the Professional Development of Physicians

Since its formation, ABMS remains focused on the physician workforce and its preparedness for the provision of care.

With more options for patients to receive care and more varieties of medicines, devices, and procedures which physicians can choose from in providing care, it is important that physicians remain knowledgeable and skillful in their disciplines and are attentive about providing safe, evidence-based, and compassionate care to patients.

In order to assure the public of their ability to stay current in their knowledge and skills, physicians seek certification and continue to meet its standards of continuous learning and assessment throughout their professional career. The process of certification, once involving occasional continuing medical educational courses and periodic assessment, is now a continuous event cycle of assessment, learning, and evaluation. It places a greater emphasis on professionalism, patient safety, and performance improvement.

In this way, physicians become active participants in the evaluation of their own practices. They can see how their practice compares to those of their peers, how it differs from published best practices, and how their own practice evolves over time, progressing toward the ideal practice.