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Certification Matters FAQs

About Board Certification and ABMS

  • What is Board Certification?

    Patients say Board Certified doctors are key to expert care.

    Board Certified doctors meet nationally recognized standards to demonstrate expertise in their specialty — whether it’s dermatology, pediatrics, surgery or any one of the more than 120 other medical specialties and subspecialties.

    After graduating from medical school, doctors who want to treat patients must complete a short internship and some additional medical education, and then pass a general exam to be licensed by the state where they intend to practice. Many doctors, however, choose to become Board Certified in one or more specialties. This requires further, extensive specialty-specific training and passing an exam that includes questions specific to their medical specialty.

    Board Certified doctors are:

    • Skilled and knowledgeable
    • Experts in their specialty
    • Meeting a higher standard
  • Why does Board Certification matter?

    Patients say Board Certification helps ensure good patient care.

    There are differences in the care provided by Board Certified doctors and those who are not Board Certified. When looking at care quality and health outcomes, there is a measurable difference in the care provided by Board Certified doctors.

    Board Certification enhances patient safety in doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals. And on average, doctors with an ongoing commitment to Board Certification deliver care at a lower cost.

  • How do doctors earn Board Certification?

    After graduating from medical school, doctors who want to treat patients must complete a short internship and some additional medical education, and then pass a general exam to be licensed by the state where they intend to practice. Many doctors, however, choose to become Board Certified in one or more specialties. This requires further, extensive specialty-specific training and passing an exam that includes questions specific to their medical specialty.

  • What options do doctors have to keep their Board Certification current throughout their careers?

    ABMS Member Boards support doctors’ transition from training to practice through ABMS Maintenance of Certification (MOC). The MOC program provides doctors a mechanism to maintain their certification through their engagement in continuous, specialty-specific learning, assessment, and improvement activities. The activities in MOC are aligned with the principles of the ABMS standards to address the changing knowledge/performance expectations and the various settings, patients, and challenges that doctors encounter in practice.

  • What does "Participating in MOC" mean?

    Participating in Maintenance of Certification (MOC) means a doctor continues to meet the requirements of his or her medical specialty Board(s) for ongoing learning and assessment. A doctor participating in MOC shows a commitment to lifelong learning and ongoing self-evaluation, and is engaged in measuring and improving his or her practice.

    What does it mean if my doctor is listed as participating in MOC?

    The MOC program promotes lifelong learning and improvement activities, the opportunity for self-assessment and helps demonstrate that doctors Board Certified by an ABMS Member Board(s) continually refresh and expand their knowledge. By participating in MOC, this doctor is demonstrating his or her commitment to a lifelong learning process and is engaged in measuring and improving his or her practice.

    What does it mean if my doctor is listed as not participating in MOC?

    By being Board Certified, the doctor has gone above and beyond licensing requirements. All doctors in the United States must be licensed in order to practice medicine, but they are not required to be Board Certified.

    There are a variety of reasons why a doctor may be listed as not participating in MOC. He or she may have chosen not to participate in the MOC program of his or her Member Board(s). Or, he or she may be participating in MOC, but is not meeting the requirements to maintain his or her certificate(s). Contact the doctor’s certifying Board(s) for more information about its MOC program.

    What does it mean if my doctor is listed as not required to participate in MOC?

    It means that the doctor became Board Certified in his or her specialty before his or her certifying Board established its MOC program. According to the policy of that doctor’s certifying Board, he or she is therefore not required to participate in its MOC program.

  • What is the difference between a licensed doctor and a Board Certified doctor?

    Patients see Board Certification as a higher standard.

    Doctors are required to have a state medical license to practice medicine; Board Certification is a higher standard that doctors must choose to attain and maintain. Board Certified doctors demonstrate their desire to practice at the top of their profession and deliver high-quality care to their patients.

    Board Certified doctors are:

    • Skilled and knowledgeable
    • Experts in their specialty
    • Meeting a higher standard

     

    Doctors with an ongoing commitment to Board Certification:

    • Participate in assessment and training beyond what is required of their peers
    • Work to continually improve the care they deliver
  • What is ABMS?

    For more than 80 years, the not-for-profit American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has been committed to providing patients with the highest quality health care by assisting its 24 Member Boards in developing and implementing uncompromising professional standards for doctors. Patients can trust Board Certified doctors to provide excellent care. That’s because doctors who are Board Certified by an independent ABMS Member Board voluntarily take part in a rigorous process that continually assesses and enhances their medical knowledge, judgment, professionalism, clinical techniques and communication skills.

  • Why should I want my doctor to be Board Certified by an ABMS Member Board?

    Patients want to be confident that doctors are qualified to provide expert care.

    ABMS Member Boards adhere to rigorous training and assessment standards and are recognized as the gold standard in medical specialty certification.

  • Can ABMS give me advice on my medical condition?

    ABMS does not have doctors on staff to answer medical questions. We recommend you consult your doctor or surgeon.

Using The Site

  • What is CertificationMatters.org?

    CertificationMatters.org is ABMS’ website for patients and their loved ones to learn about Board Certification and its importance to quality care. The site also provides a free service for patients to check if a doctor is Board Certified by an ABMS Member Board. The site is not a tool for finding a doctor, but to confirm a doctor’s certification status, so the patient must know the last name of each doctor they wish to look up.

  • How do I search my doctor’s certification status on CertificationMatters.org?

    To confirm that your doctor is Board Certified, go to the “Is My Doctor Board Certified?” search tool.

    Only the doctor’s complete last name is required to start a search. Optional fields to refine the search are:

    In the search results table, click the name of a specific doctor to view his or her individual profile.

    Not finding your doctor? Here are some suggestions.

  • What does it mean if my online search did not return any results?

    There could be many reasons why a doctor does not appear following a search. It could mean that:

    • The doctor may not have an active certification from an ABMS Member Board.
    • The doctor requested that his or her information be kept private.
    • The search terms are not sufficient to identify the specific doctor, and CertificationMatters.org limits the number of results that can be displayed.



    Here are possible reasons you see no results for your search, and their solutions.

    Possible reason: The search did not use enough of the four fields to return 25 or fewer results. Searches that return more than 25 results will not be displayed.

    Solution: In addition to the required Doctor’s Last Name field, complete as many of the other fields as possible. Try these steps in the search tool:

    • Check the spelling of the doctor’s last name. Ensure you are using the complete last name; names with a hyphen should include that punctuation and full name. Partial searches in the last name are not allowed.
    • Enter at least the first letter of the doctor’s first name. Partial searches in the first name are allowed.
    • Add or remove the State location, or choose a neighboring state if you are near a state border. Doctors are not required to report their most recent location; because Board Certification is a national process above and beyond state licensure, the location first reported by a doctor may no longer be where they currently practice.
    • Add, remove or try a different area of specialization.


    Possible reason: The doctor may not be currently Board Certified.

    Solution: Learn about Board Certification and what it takes to become Board Certified.

    Possible reason: The doctor earned his Board Certification very recently.

    Solution: In the case of newly certified doctors, the information may not be available in our database for 90 days following notification from an ABMS Member Board to the doctor. In the meantime, you could call the ABMS Member Board with which you think he or she is Board Certified and ask if they can confirm certification.

  • What does a doctor's "last reported location" mean?

    Doctors report their address to their Member Board(s) when initially certified and are not required to update this information. Currently, this is the address that is supplied to the American Board of Medical Specialties for use in Certification Matters.

    Also, some doctors choose to keep their last reported city and/or state private, so that information may not be displayed in search results.

    If your search for a specific doctor in a state does not find that doctor, please try removing the state from your search criteria (choose the top line in the State/Province pull-down menu or choose Clear Search to start over), or you may try nearby states in the event that the doctor relocated since last reporting his or her address.

    See also, How do I search my doctor’s certification status on CertificationMatters.org?

    Physicians: If your location is not correct on this website, please send your changes to your ABMS Member Board and ask them to send the update to ABMS. Changes may not take effect immediately.

  • What does "select specialty" mean in the search tool?

    For a doctor to become Board Certified in one or more specialties — like dermatology, pediatrics or surgery — he or she must undergo further, extensive specialty-specific training and pass an exam that includes questions specific to the medical specialty.

    There are many 40 specialties and 85 subspecialties to choose from. When a search for your doctor with a specialty/subspecialty selected does not find that doctor, please try removing or changing your selection.

    Learn more about the 24 ABMS Member Boards that certify doctors.

    Tip: To find which Member Board or Boards offers a certificate in an area of medicine, try searching for the medical term using the website search tool represented by a magnifying glass at the upper right of any page. Any Boards that include a mention of that term will appear on the website’s search results page; click any result to learn more about that specialty or subspecialty.

  • Why can't I do an unlimited number of searches?

    Patients may conduct up to 25 searches within any rolling 24-hour period. The purpose of the limitation is to ensure that this free service is available for patients who want to check the certification status of a doctor they are currently seeing or are considering going to see.

    If you are a patient who reaches the maximum number of searches, you may either wait 24 hours from your last search, or call the ABMS Certification Verification Service at 1-866-ASK-ABMS (1-866-275-2267), then press 1. Please note: Agents can only provide certification verification to the general public. They cannot provide you with detailed biographical or residency training information, help you locate a physician, or register complaints against a physician.

    Searches that return no results or that exceed the allowed number of doctors displayed in the results list, do not count against the total number of searches conducted.

    Health care professionals who need Primary Source Verification (PSV) services should contact the professional services team at ABMS Solutions at (800) 733-2267, or learn more about business use of physician credentials.

For Professional Organizations

  • What is the difference between a Patient and a Professional user?

    If you are researching your own doctor(s) or investigating doctors whom you or a family member may be interested in visiting, then you are designated as a patient user.

    Professional users are looking up doctors to verify credentials or investigate doctors for business, commercial or any purpose other than those described for patient use. Please be aware that information obtained through the Certification Matters website is intended for patient use only, and is not valid or authorized for use by professional organizations. Learn more.

  • How can I verify a doctor’s Board Certification for professional use?

    Board Certification information contained in the “Is My Doctor Board Certified” search feature is officially recognized ABMS data. Individuals listed are currently certified in the areas of specialization and subspecialization as noted. Commercial use of such data, for example to satisfy National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and The Joint Commission (TJC) requirements, generally requires not only verification of Board Certification, but also the dates of Board Certification. ABMS makes primary source data available in online services available from licensed partners. Information from these online services is accepted by TJC, NCQA, URAC and other accrediting organizations.

    Please contact our partners for additional information on their offerings:

    Elsevier, publisher of Board Certified Docs
    (800) 523-1649, ext 3276
    h.licensing@elsevier.com

    CertiFACTS Online
    (800) 733-2267
    dcoursey@ABMSSolutions.com

    Learn more.

  • How can I purchase a list of Board Certified physicians by locations and/or specialty?

    Please contact ABMS at products@abms.org for information about this service or call (312) 436-2600 and select option 5.

Technical Support

  • How can I print a report?

    CertificationMatters.org offers a free service for patients and does not contain functionality to copy page content or print pages in a report format for use by professional organizations.

    Professional users who require printable formatted reports of Board Certification verification or other purposes should contact the American Board of Medical Specialties. Please be aware that information displayed through the “Is My Doctor Board Certified” section of this website is intended for patient use only, and is not valid or authorized for use by professional organizations.

    See the FAQ, What is the difference between a Patient and a Professional user?

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