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Nov 3 2010

Guidelines for advertising board certifications advance

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At its September meeting, the Board adopted the report of its Task Force on Physician Advertising Standards. The report proposes an approach to providing guidance to physicians who wish to advertise board certification to the public while also equipping patients with information to use when vetting a physician’s credentials. The Board has not determined a timeline for completion of the report’s recommendations.

In adopting the report, the Board emphasized that its recommendations apply exclusively to the issue of advertising board certifications to the public. Board statements and guidelines should not be construed as a referendum on the legitimacy of certain certifying organizations. Proposed guidelines for advertising to the public are not intended for use by organizations when making credentialing decisions nor should they be relied upon by health care payors when setting physician reimbursement rates.

The Board initially approved proposed rule 21 NCAC 32Y .0101 Advertising of Specialty and Board Certification in 2009. The proposed rule generated a number of responses during the public comment period, prompting the Board to convene a Task Force of physician experts on the issue, chaired by Board Member William A. Walker, MD. Task Force participants heard testimony and engaged in debate with representatives of various certifying organizations during an evening session, followed by a round table discussion.

The Task Force report proposes adopting a modified version of the original proposed rule. The current draft would clarify that physicians may advertise board certification by boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). In addition, physicians could advertise certification by boards meeting criteria established in the rule, so long as the physician maintains documentation substantiating that the criteria have been met. Physicians who are board certified in an area other than the specialty or sub-specialty in which they completed residency or fellowship training would be required to make that explicit in their ads.

The report further recommends that the Board adopt a more comprehensive position statement on advertising to help physicians interpret the Board’s proposed rule. Finally, the report recommends that the Board develop patient resource materials on its website to foster greater understanding of the significance of board certification.

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