Physicians who maintain board certification may provide better care than peers who don't

Physicians who regularly pass exams on the most recent clinical guidelines may provide higher quality care than their colleagues who do not maintain board certification, a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found.

The researchers analyzed health data for more than 85,000 Medicare patients between 2009 and 2012. These patients were treated by 1,260 general internists who first received American Board of Internal Medicine certification in 1991. In all, 786 physicians (61 percent) maintained their board certification from 1991 to 2012.

To determine the quality of primary care for these patients, the research team looked at how often patients received certain recommended screenings, including mammograms, cholesterol checks for people with heart disease and several tests for diabetes patients.

In each case, the researchers found physicians who maintained board certification treated patients who completed these tests more often than those who did not maintain certification.

The majority of women (72 percent) received mammograms every other year when they had physicians who maintained board certification, compared with 68 percent of those who saw other physicians. Seventy-nine percent of patients with heart disease had annual cholesterol checks when they saw physicians who maintained board certification, compared with 77 percent with physicians who did not.

"The latest research shows that doctors who maintain certification are more likely to meet important quality metrics throughout their career," Richard Baron, MD, president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine, told Reuters. The board employs or has other financial ties to the researchers, Reuters noted.

"This information is important for patients who may be selecting doctors and may consider choosing a doctor who is actively maintaining their certification versus one who is not," Dr. Baron said.

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