What Matters in Choosing the Right Doctor

Choosing a doctor is the single most important decision people make regarding their health care. They expect and trust that their physicians are up-to- date with the latest clinical and scientific developments in their specialty. And, patients have greater demands for quality and safety.

Board Certification indicates that a doctor has been trained in the latest techniques and medical approaches in his or her specialty. By participating in a continuing certification process that involves assessing skills and knowledge, lifelong learning, and practice improvement, doctors who have their certification demonstrate that they meet a national standard set by their peers in their area of specialty medicine throughout their careers. Participation in Maintenance of Certification (MOC) means that a physician is demonstrating that he/she is keeping up in the specialty.


Many hospitals and health systems have independently decided to consider Board Certification and MOC as part of their credentialing criteria because they recognize that diagnostic and treatment knowledge changes rapidly and learned skills in medicine can decline over time. Health care purchasers and providers also trust this credential and use it when selecting participants in their physician panels. Patients should want to know if their physicians have been certified and whether they are keeping up through MOC.

Companies can play a significant role in helping their employees access the best care possible by offering health insurance plans that include an ample selection of Board Certified doctors in their network. With nearly one million Board Certified physicians across the United States, employees can check the certification status of their physicians or ones they are thinking of choosing before they make this important decision for their care. And many do. In fact, in 2017 alone, more than 750,000 individuals checked physician certification status at www.CertificationMatters.org.

All doctors need a medical license to practice medicine in this country. It means that the physician has met minimum standards to treat patients. Board Certification demonstrates that a doctor has gone above and beyond basic medical training and has completed additional training and assessment in his/her specialty. The fact that most doctors in the United States have chosen to become Board Certified speaks to its importance.

Moreover, several studies show that Board Certified physicians practice higher quality medicine and tend to have fewer disciplinary actions than those who are not Board Certified. Engaging in continuing certification is linked to improved care for patients with asthma, diabetes, and hypertension – all chronic conditions that have reached epidemic proportions in this country. It also is associated with improved care for children and the elderly.

Providing your employees with an ample selection of Board Certified physicians in their health plan options can help them better navigate the process in choosing doctors that are right for them and helping them maintain a healthy life for themselves and their loved ones.

By Mira Irons, MD

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

American Board of Medical Specialties

Dr. Mira Bjelotomich Irons oversees core ABMS programs and staff that serve to advance improved standards and methods for certification, continuing certification and lifelong assessment, as well as leading the ABMS International programs.