New Standards Reflect Foundational Changes

On December 13, 2021

By Richard E. Hawkins, MD, ABMS President and Chief Executive Officer

Richard E. Hawkins, MD

The approval of the new Standards for Continuing Certification (Standards) represents a pivotal moment for the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), our Member Boards, and the greater health care community. Developed to reflect the recommendations of the Continuing Board Certification: Vision for the Future Commission (Commission), the Standards recognize the value that continuing certification brings to board certified physicians (also known as diplomates) and the public, allowing ABMS to deliver on its mission in two foundational ways.

The first relates to the recognition that ABMS and its 24 Member Boards can bring value to both diplomates and the public. The boards’ programs support the learning and improvement needs and desires of physicians while providing the public with a credential it can rely and depend upon. Innovative assessment models endorsed by the Standards support and direct learning as well as complement the continuing education that all physicians undertake to improve their skills. The transition to longitudinal assessments away from high-stakes 10-year exams enable the boards to better balance formative and summative approaches.

The Standards also support greater opportunities for physicians to participate in relevant activities that improve health and health care, including recognizing quality and safety improvement activities in which diplomates are already engaged. In doing so, the Standards stress the importance of focusing on such issues as improving health and health care in the communities diplomates serve and addressing disparities in care and increasing equity. In parallel to implementing the new Standards, the boards will engage their professional societies and other stakeholders in collaborative work to enhance the practice improvement infrastructure and reduce impediments to meaningful improvement work. These innovative assessment models combined with the wide door approval of improvement activities and focus on improving health and health care enhance the relevance of board certification to practicing physicians.

Secondly, and as exemplified by the collaborative efforts mentioned above, the Standards acknowledge that professional self-regulation is a collaborative process that requires the involvement of our partners. Among them are specialty and state medical societies, hospitals and health systems (including academic medical centers), continuing medical education organizations, and our Associate Members. Each of these stakeholders has an important role in supporting their members’ engagement in meaningful learning and improvement work.

Many boards have already begun to make substantial changes to their continuing certification programs that are in alignment with the Standards and address the Commission’s recommendations. Examples of these programmatic changes are highlighted in the Winter 2021 issue of ABMS Insights and serve to represent our commitment to improve and evolve the continuing certification process.

The new Standards reinforce the core value of board certification for all stakeholders, most notably diplomates and their patients. They also speak clearly to our intention to continue to engage with others to modify and adjust our programming as needed to maintain the integrity of the credential for those who carry it and those who use it.
Board certification tells a story about a diplomate’s knowledge, judgment, and skills as well as his or her commitment to professionalism. The new Standards will help support diplomates and the ABMS Community in meeting our promise of providing better care through higher standards.

© 2021 American Board of Medical Specialties

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