What Does it Mean to be Board Certified?

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Choosing the right doctor is an important decision, not to be made simply on the basis of insurance coverage, or solely upon a list of physicians provided to you by your insurance company. A far better way to select a physician is to choose a physician Board Certified in his/her field, thus ensuring additional levels of training, current knowledge and the highest degree of peer based testing and scrutiny.

All physicians are licensed, but not all are Board Certified. What does it mean to be Board Certified?

Board Certification is a formal recognition of the highest qualifications in a chosen medical field, and is given only to physicians who have passed examination before specialty boards comprised of their professional peers. Board Certified physicians have been highly trained and tested in their areas of medicine.

A Board Certification examination is a stringent exam given to a physician to test skill, knowledge, ability and medical judgment. Board certification is not only scientific testing regarding medical knowledge; it includes medical judgment, performance and practice standards.

Some physicians who are Board certified become Board Certified in a further subspecialty. Medical specialty certification in the United States is a voluntary rather than mandatory process. The certifying organization is called the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), an umbrella organization overseeing the 24 approved medical specialty boards in the United States.

Physicians with specialty credentials have completed an approved and monitored A.C.G.M.E. (The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) training program after going to medical school, and they have taken certification examinations to establish their proficiency in a particular specialty of medicine. For example, a Board Certified Anesthesiologist is a physician highly trained to provide pain relief and supervision during an operation or diagnostic procedure, and to provide optimization of condition and stabilization before, during and after care. In addition to critical care and resuscitation of patients in cardiac, respiratory emergency or severe injury, Anesthesiologists can consult and provide treatment for acute or long-standing pain management.

It is possible to obtain Board Certifications in both Anesthesiology and in one of the subspecialties of Anesthesiology. Subspecialties of Anesthesiology include Critical Care Medicine and Pain Medicine. In addition to the training and examination required for Board Certification in Anesthesiology, Board Certification sought in the Pain Medicine sub-specialty requires an additional Fellowship in an ACGME Certified university program. Following this comprehensive training, an examination must be passed to be Board Certified in Pain Medicine.

A Board Certified physician that is additionally certified in Pain Medicine (also known as Pain Management) is an Anesthesiologist who provides a high level of care, either as a primary physician or consultant, for patients experiencing acute or chronic pain. Rather than simply administering pain medication, Board Certified Pain Management physicians diagnose the sources of pain and strive to provide pain relief through minimally invasive techniques.

How important is it that a physician be Board Certified? A Gallup public opinion poll revealed that 3 out of 4 people would select a physician who is Board Certified, even over a personal recommendation from a friend, and over 80 % say that they would change physicians if the Board Certification lapsed.

In addition to patient demand, medical care institutions, facilities and insurers are more often requiring physicians to document quality of care, and Board Certification provides this standard.