Single GME Accreditation System to be Fully Implemented by 2020

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine have, after a two-year effort, agreed to a single accreditation system for the nation's graduate medical education programs. The single accreditation program will be fully implemented by 2020.

Currently, the ACGME and AOA have separate accreditation systems for allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) programs, respectively. Osteopathic physicians differ slightly from their allopathic counterparts, as DOs practice a "whole person" approach to healthcare, and their education has more of a focus on prevention of illness, according to the AOA.

Having a unified accreditation system will standardize the education resident physicians receive. "This uniform path of preparation for practice ensures that the evaluation of and accountability for the competency of all resident physicians…will be consistent across all programs," Thomas Nasca, MD, CEO of the ACGME, said in a news release. "A single accreditation system provides the opportunity to introduce and consistently evaluate new physician competencies that are needed to meet patient needs and the healthcare delivery challenges facing the U.S. over the next decade."

Under the new, single accreditation program, students who graduate from allopathic and osteopathic medical schools will have access to all ACGME-accredited training programs. Programs will be able to maintain an osteopathic focus and can receive osteopathic recognition while being ACGME-accredited.

"A single system standardizes the approach to GME accreditation and ensures that all physicians have access to the primary and sub-specialty training necessary to serve patients," AOA President Norman Vinn, DO, said. "Importantly, the system recognizes the unique principles and practices of the osteopathic medical profession and its contributions to the health of all Americans."

The details

As part of the agreement, AOA and AACOM will become ACGME member organizations, meaning they can nominate members to the ACGME board. Two review committees will be established to set the standards for the osteopathic aspects of GME programs seek osteopathic recognition.

Both the ACGME and the AOA will continue to accredit their respective programs until 2020. During the five-year transition period of July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2020, osteopathic programs will apply for ACGME accreditation and the yet-to-be-created osteopathic recognition. The ACGME common program requirements will not change.

Any MD or DO graduate who meets the prerequisite competencies can then access any GME program or transfer from one program to another.

Additionally, hospitals and other institutions will no longer have to have "dually accredited" or "parallel accredited" residency programs.

Driving force

No one organization led the charge to create a single accreditation system; rather, it was a "trilateral dialogue" in which ACGME, AOA and AACOM officials realized the opportunities of collaboration, according to Thomas Nasca, MD, MACP, CEO of the ACGME.

This initial announcement is two years in the making, and it was spurred by the changes happening throughout the industry. "If you think about the environment that the healthcare system and medical education is in right now, it's a time when everybody is rethinking about how they're doing things to do it in the best way possible," says Stephen Shannon, DO, MPH, president of AACOM. "We've had relationships for a number of years, but it seemed right to step back and rethink of…what we can do together."

While both the ACGME and the AOA were have been rethinking their accreditation process, that was not the only driving force behind the single accreditation movement, Dr. Shannon says. "It's what's happening actually in all of education and all of healthcare delivery," he says.


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