Certification Matters FAQs

Introduction to Certification Matters

Certification Matters is a free service for patients and their families to see if a doctor is board certified by one of the 24 medical specialty boards (ABMS Member Boards) affiliated with the American Board of Medical Specialties® (ABMS®).

ABMS board certification is one important item on a patient’s checklist when choosing a new doctor. Doctors listed on this site have been certified in one or more of the 40 specialties and 89 subspecialties offered by ABMS Member Boards.

When you search for a specific doctor on this website, you will be given a list of search results. Select the doctor you are looking for from the list to see information about your doctor’s certification. The following definitions will help explain that information.

See About ABMS Board Certification.
See What are the four search fields to find a doctor on Certification Matters?
See Reasons you may not find your doctor on Certification Matters.

Definitions

  • What is a certifying board?

    A certifying board requires doctors to keep up on requirements including education, training, and passing an exam, in their area of medical expertise throughout their careers. The 24 certifying boards (ABMS Member Boards) of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) offer certificates to doctors in more than 120 areas of medicine.

    ABMS Member Boards are private, not-for-profit organizations. Their purpose is to improve the quality of health care for patients.

    Working with the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), these Member Boards decide what knowledge and skills a doctor must have in their area of expertise (called a medical specialty). The education, training, and exams required by the Member Boards mean that the doctors meet high standards to provide quality care for their patients.

    Learn more about the value of ABMS board certification.

  • What is a medical specialty, subspecialty, and focused practice?

    A medical specialty is the area of medicine where a doctor is an expert, such as pediatrics (care of children). A subspecialty is expertise in part of that same area, such as pediatric dermatology (care of a child’s skin).

    “Focused practice” shows that a board certified doctor has additional expertise within a special area of medicine. Examples include a doctor working in a hospital or with specific medical conditions or procedures, such as pediatric neurological surgery (surgical care of a child’s brain).

    Learn more about ABMS board certification.

  • What does a doctor’s certification status mean?

    A doctor’s “status” shows if their board certification is valid (“certified”) in an area of specialty medicine.

    What does it mean if my doctor’s status is “certified” and they are listed as “actively maintaining certification”?
    A doctor is actively maintaining certification when they keep up on requirements including education, training, and passing an exam, for certification in their area of medical expertise throughout their careers. By maintaining their certification, doctors show their commitment to lifelong learning.

    What does it mean if my doctor’s status is “certified” and they are listed as “not actively maintaining certification”?
    While most doctors who are board certified are required to participate in ongoing activities to maintain certification, some are not required to do so because this requirement was not in place when they were first certified.

    Also, certifying boards (ABMS Member Boards) may offer doctors a grace period to complete the requirements for maintaining certification. Sometimes there is a delay when the certifying board (ABMS Member Board) reports if a doctor is actively maintaining their certification. Usually, this is a temporary situation.

    What does it mean if my doctor’s status is “no longer certified”?
    Doctors listed as “no longer certified” are not keeping up on requirements including education, training, and passing an exam, for certification in their area of medical expertise throughout their careers. Those requirements are set by the certifying board (ABMS Member Board) that oversees that area of expertise, and that board makes the decision about changing a doctor’s certification status.

    For many reasons, a doctor might choose not to continue keeping up with those requirements. For example, they may be focusing on a different area of medicine.

    What does it mean if my doctor’s status for “actively maintaining certification” is “not reported”?
    Sometimes there is a delay when the certifying board (ABMS Member Board) reports if a doctor is actively maintaining their certification. Usually, this is a temporary situation.

    What does it mean if my doctor is listed as “certified upon retirement”?
    Doctors are shown as “certified upon retirement” when they notify their certifying board (ABMS Member Board) that they are no longer providing patient care.

    See What does “actively maintaining certification” mean for doctors?

  • What do certification dates mean?

    A doctor is “first certified” on the date when they first become board certified in their area of medical expertise (medical specialty).

    The “most recent certification” date is the last time a doctor completed requirements including education, training, and passing an exam, in their area of medical expertise; the most recent and first certified dates may be the same.

    A doctor’s information on Certification Matters is updated from time to time with data sent by their certifying board (ABMS Member Board) and may not reflect very recent changes to their certification.

  • What does “actively maintaining certification” mean for doctors?

    Medicine changes over time. One job of certifying boards (ABMS Member Boards) is to encourage doctors to stay on top of those changes.

    A doctor is actively maintaining certification when they keep up on requirements including education, training, and passing an exam, in their area of medical expertise throughout their careers. This process is also called “continuing certification” or “maintenance of certification.”

    Benefits of continuing certification include:

      • Gives patients confidence in doctors who are board certified and actively maintaining their certification
      • Helps doctors stay up to date with changes in medicine
      • Finds gaps in a doctor’s knowledge so they know what to learn
      • Reduces chance that a doctor will be disciplined for unprofessional behavior

     

    While most doctors who are board certified are required to participate in ongoing activities to maintain certification, some are not required to do so because this requirement was not in place when they were first certified.

  • What is a doctor’s “reported location”?

    “Reported location” is the most recent address reported by a doctor’s certifying board (ABMS Member Board). Sometimes doctors do not provide their updated work location to their board, so what is shown may be out of date.

    See What are the four search fields to find a doctor on Certification Matters?

Using the Site

  • What are the four search fields to find a doctor on Certification Matters?

    Certification Matters is a free service for patients and their families to check if a doctor is board certified by an ABMS certifying board (ABMS Member Boards). Other online services are available if you do not yet have the name of a doctor who provides the type of medical care you need.

    Once you have found doctors who work in the area of medical expertise you need (called a specialty or subspecialty), then use this site to learn if they are board certified.

    There are four fields you may use to search for your doctor. Only the last name of the doctor is required. If you do not find your doctor listed in your first search, try different combinations of the other three fields to help you find the correct person when you search our list of more than 980,000 board certified doctors.

    1. Last name of the doctor
    You must know the last name of the doctor you are searching for. This is because Certification Matters is a site for checking the board certification status for a doctor you know, to help you decide if they have the qualifications you want. This is not a website for finding doctors.

    Tip: Make sure you are spelling the doctor’s last name correctly. Use the complete last name when possible; you must type at least the first five letters of the last name. Names with a hyphen should include that full name with the hyphen.

    2. First name of the doctor
    Use your doctor’s first name to refine your search results.

    Tip: Type at least the first letter of the doctor’s first name. Partial searches in the first name are allowed. If you are not sure, you may leave this search field blank.

    3. State/Territory/Province
    When you select a state, territory, or province in the search tool, the search results will show a “reported location.” This location is the most address reported by a doctor’s certifying board (ABMS Member Board).

    Doctors may not provide their updated work location to their certifying board (ABMS Member Board), so what is shown may be out of date.

    Tip: Since the doctor’s location may be out of date, you can remove the location from your search terms. To do this, choose the top line in the pull-down list of locations, labeled “State/Territory/Province,” or choose “Clear Search” to start over. You can also try choosing nearby states in case the doctor moved since they reported their address. If you are not sure, you may leave this search field blank.

    Attention 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.

    4. Specialty/Subspecialty
    A specialty or subspecialty is an area of medical expertise. When doctors get board certified, they can choose from more than 120 specialties or subspecialties that are offered by the certifying boards (ABMS Member Boards). Some doctors may have more than one area of medical expertise.

    Tip: To restrict your search to doctors who work in one area of expertise, choose the specialty or subspecialty from the list of 120 options that best matches the type of medical care you need. If you are not sure, you may leave this search field blank.

    See Reasons you may not find your doctor on Certification Matters.

  • Reasons you may not find your doctor on Certification Matters

    If you have tried different combinations of the four search fields as explained above and are unable to locate the doctor you are looking for, here are a few possible reasons.

    • The doctor may not be certified by one of the 24 certifying boards (ABMS Member Boards).
      • Doctors who are licensed to practice medicine but have not been certified by one of the 24 ABMS Member Boards are not included on this site.
      • Some types of doctors and certain kinds of health care services are not included in the 120 areas of medical expertise offered by ABMS Member Boards. Examples of those not found on this site are chiropractors, dentists, oral surgeons, and podiatrists.
    • The doctor is board certified but asked their ABMS Member Board to keep their information private.
    • The doctor may have earned their board certification very recently.
      • Information about doctors who just became board certified may not be available on this website for up to 90 days. You can contact the ABMS Member Board that you think may have certified the doctor to see if information about your doctor is available there.
    • You may need to change your search terms. See “What are the four search fields to find a doctor on Certification Matters?
  • Why can't I do an unlimited number of searches?

    Patients may conduct up to 15 searches within any rolling 24-hour period for personal use, which should allow a patient to check the certification status of several doctors who offers the medical care they need.

    If you are a patient who reaches the maximum number of searches, please wait 24 hours from your last search.

    Searches that do not return results, or which return too many doctors to list, do not count against the total number of searches conducted.

    Health care professionals who need Primary Source Verification (PSV) services should contact ABMS Solutions for additional information on their products for professional use:

    ABMS Solutions
    (800) 733-2267
    sales@ABMSSolutions.com

  • How can I print a report from Certification Matters?

    Certification Matters is a free service from the American Board of Medical Specialties®.

    The 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.

    For all other purposes, or if you require official reports for board certification verification, please refer to “PSV for Professional Organizations” and visit ABMS Solutions.

  • I am a doctor and my information is not correct. What do I do?

    The physician certification information in the ABMS database is updated periodically with data provided by its 24 medical specialty boards (ABMS Member Boards). Due to the possibility of reporting and processing delays, the accuracy and completeness of records cannot be guaranteed.

    If you are a physician and your information is not correct, please contact your board and be sure to tell them to send the updated information to ABMS. Changes may not take effect immediately.

  • 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 primary care doctor or surgeon. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.

For Professional Organizations

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

    Patients may conduct up to 15 searches within any rolling 24-hour period for personal use, which should allow a patient to check the certification status of several doctors who offers the medical care they need.

    If you are a patient who reaches the maximum number of searches, please wait 24 hours from your last search.

    Searches that do not return results, or which return too many doctors to list, do not count against the total number of searches conducted.

    Health care professionals who need Primary Source Verification (PSV) services should contact ABMS Solutions for additional information on their products for professional use:

    ABMS Solutions
    (800) 733-2267
    sales@ABMSSolutions.com

  • What is the difference between a patient and a professional user?

    If you are looking up a doctor on Certification Matters for personal use for yourself or a loved one, then you are considered a patient.

    If you need to verify the credentials of a doctor for any professional purposes, 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.

    Please contact ABMS Solutions for additional information on their products for professional use:

    ABMS Solutions
    (800) 733-2267
    sales@ABMSSolutions.com

  • How can I verify a doctor’s board certification for professional use?

    Professional organizations that need to verify a doctor’s board certification and the dates of certification should contact ABMS Solutions.

    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 that is accepted by TJC, NCQA, URAC and other accrediting organizations.

    Please contact ABMS Solutions for additional information on their offerings:

    ABMS Solutions
    (800) 733-2267
    sales@ABMSSolutions.com

  • How can I print a report from Certification Matters?

    Certification Matters is a free service from the American Board of Medical Specialties®.

    The 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.

    For all other purposes, or if you require official reports for board certification verification, please refer to “PSV for Professional Organizations” and visit ABMS Solutions.

  • I am a doctor and my information is not correct. What do I do?

    The physician certification information in the ABMS database is updated periodically with data provided by its 24 medical specialty boards (ABMS Member Boards). Due to the possibility of reporting and processing delays, the accuracy and completeness of records cannot be guaranteed.

    If you are a physician and your information is not correct, please contact your board and be sure to tell them to send the updated information to ABMS. Changes may not take effect immediately.

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