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Consumer Survey Highlights Value of Certification

*Reprinted with permission from Citizen Advocacy Center News & Views, Third Quarter, 2011, Volume 23, Number 3.

Originally published in the Fall 2011 Federation Forum Magazine.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) commissioned a consumer survey, which was conducted in December 2010 by Opinion Research Corporation. One thousand consumers were asked about their knowledge of doctors’ qualifications and the importance of Board Certification and Maintenance of Certification as factors in selecting a physician.

Consumers were asked how important it is that their physician(s) participate in a maintenance of competence (MOC) program (defined as: “a process by which doctors who are Board Certified continue to participate in a continuous process of lifelong learning and self-assessment in their specialties”). The responses were:

  • 95% say it is “important,” with 66% saying it is “very important.”
  • 84% would do one of the following if they learned their physician does not participate in the MOC program:
    • 59% would ask their doctor why he or she chose not to participate
    • 56% would try to learn more about the MOC program
    • 45% would look for a new doctor
    • 41% would stop referring the doctor to family and friends

When it was explained that physicians who were certified before 1990 are not required to participate in the MOC program, 78% of the respondents (83% of women and 72% of men) said they would be bothered if their doctor opted out of the MOC program.

Respondents were asked to evaluate the importance of six aspects of the MOC program. Ninety percent said they are all “important.” The following percentages of respondents said a factor is “very important:”

  • testing at regular intervals to assess a doctor’s medical knowledge (60%)
  • providing quality of care information to patients/the public (54%)
  • periodically assessing the doctor’s clinical performance and quality of care to see how he or she compares with others who offer the same types of services (51%)
  • participating in self-assessment activities to determine how the doctor is doing (51%)
  • conducting surveys among doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who work with the doctor (48%)
  • surveys of patients to assess the doctor’s communication skills (47%).

The top six factors in choosing a doctor (“somewhat important” or “very important”) are:

  • bedside manner or communication skills (95%)
  • board certification (91%)
  • recommendation of a friend or family member (83%)
  • location of the office (80%)
  • hospital affiliation (76%)
  • the school of hospital where the doctor trained (62%).

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