New policy is intended to prevent abuse of the term "board eligible" by restricting how long physicians can wait before becoming certified in their specialty.
Physicians no longer have an indefinite amount of time to achieve board certification.
A new American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) rule now requires doctors to be certified three to seven years after completing residency training. Time limits will vary by specialty, with each of the ABMS 24 member boards to set policy by April 16.
The goal is to prevent confusion about the term "board eligible," said ABMS President and CEO Kevin B. Weiss, MD, MPH. ABMS and its member boards have never recognized the term. However, credentialing organizations have used it for decades to identify physicians who are becoming certified.
Problems arise when physicians use the phrase to describe themselves when they are not actively pursuing board certification, Dr. Weiss said.
"There are a very small number of physicians who will maintain the status of board eligible for an extraordinarily long amount of time," said Daniel L. Barrow, MD, chair of the American Board of Neurological Surgery.
"It is dishonest, and it sends the wrong message to the public."
Physicians who abuse the term do it to create the impression that they have equivalent status—or near-equivalent status—to board-certified physicians, said James C. Puffer, MD, president and CEO of the American Board of Family Medicine.
ABMS announced the policy in February, which is retroactive to January 1, 2012. Until now, the period between training and board certification was undefined, Dr. Weiss said. "This is to make it very clear to hospitals, health plans and other credentialers what is happening to that physician between completion of training and board certification," he added.
Click here to view the American Board of Medical Specialties board eligibility fact sheet.
Source: American Medical News, March 5, 2012.