What Does Being Board Certified Mean?

What Does Being Boardcertified Mean?


Selecting A Healthcare Provider

Everyone always wants to be healthy. No one likes to be sick. Unfortunately it is almost inevitable that at some point in our lives we will require the need for a doctor or a medical procedure. During these times everyone wants the highest quality healthcare possible, but it's hard to know how to choose. There are many things to consider such as:

  • What healthcare provider your insurance covers 
  • If the healthcare provider or service is licensed, accredited or approved
  • The location healthcare provider 
  • Hours that the service is available 

These are just some instant items that come to mind, but wouldn’t it be nice to have more information about your healthcare provider such as where he earned his degree and exactly what he/she is certified for? 

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Research shows that Americans want and value high-quality health care. The theory is if you make health care choices that offer the best possible care that you can get, you are most likely to get the best possible results.

So the question is, how do I make the right choice—about health plans, doctors, treatments, hospitals, and long-term care—how can I tell which choices offer quality health care, and which do not?

Fortunately, with the access to the internet and the wealth of information that becomes available with it, there are more and more ways to measure and report on the quality of health care. More information to help you make informed choices that can help improve the quality of your own care.

The AHRQ has a guide that helps you find and use such information to choose quality health care. The information in this guide is based on research about what people want and need in order to make quality health care choices. A complete download is available here: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/qualguid.pdf.

Follow these steps and you will be on your way!

More than probably any other criteria, patients in overwhelming numbers prefer to deal with a physician who is board certified. There is a grassroots understanding by even those far removed from the medical community, that this single factor is absolutely necessary in choosing a medical provider. That’s a great first step, but what about finding a board certified physician in the correct specialty or subspecialty?

Finding the right physician is really about following a series of very specific steps and the process doesn’t need to be overly complicated.


Step One: The Ailment

Start with the basics. What is it that ills you? The Internet is a glorious resource for information and sometimes all you need to know is where to start. We suggest that as good a place as any is Google. By typing in a simple phrase into Google’s search box, you are most likely going to be able to identify the medical specialty that addresses the topic you are interested in. For instance, let’s say you are looking for a physician who specializes in Cancer treatment. 

Google Keyword Search – “Cancer Doctor”

The simple search phrase above will potentially return millions of results. What you’re looking for can most likely be found in the first or second result. From this search, you will quickly learn that a physician who specializes in Cancer is an Oncologist.

Here is another example. Let’s say you are looking for a specialist in knee surgery.

Google Keyword Search – “Knee Surgery Doctor”

The above search terms will point you towards a physician who specializes in Orthopedic Surgery. The key is to keep your search phrase simple and short. It’s also helpful to include the word “physician” or “doctor” in your search terms, like used above. While it is not necessary to use medical terms to find a medical specialty, do try to avoid colloquial terms that may provide a less reliable results. For example, instead of using the term “Kids Tummy Ache Doctor”, consider “Children’s Stomach Ache Doctor” instead.


Step Two: Found the Specialty, now find the Physician

BoardCertified.com is an invaluable resource for linking patients to highly qualified medical professionals.  In Step One above, you used a simple Google search to identify the type of medical specialty that most suits your needs. Now in Step Two, you can use BoardCertified.com to point you towards an appropriate physician.

BoardCertified.com provides you multiple ways to achieve a search result, and you can do so right from the Home Page.  Here, you will see two clearly marked boxes. One will say “Keyword” and the other will say “Where”. Type the medical specialty of interest in the “Keyword” box and then type in your city and state in the “Where” box. You can even just type your zip code instead of your city and state, if you prefer.

Also on the Home Page, just to the right of the search boxes is a blue box titled “Find By Specialty”. This option will give you direct access to your preferred specialty by simply finding the appropriate specialty and clicking on it.


Step Three: Advanced Searches

Although Step Three is entitled “Advanced Searches”, it could almost be re-named “Step One – Start Here!” BoardCertified.com has some pretty sophisticated programming that is designed to help you find the right doctor. Similarly, physicians use their Personal Profile Pages on BoardCertified.com to help prospective patients find them. What’s at work behind the scenes to make this happen is something called keyword programming.

In Step One above, we recommended that you use Google to type in a simple keyword search to identify the specialty that treats your ailment. For instance, we used the example “Knee Surgery Doctor” to find the appropriate specialty of “Orthopedic Surgery”. In this case, you can do almost the same thing on BoardCertified.com and skip a step or two along the way! Physicians use their Personal Profile Pages on BoardCertified.com to describe what they do and the form of medicine they specialize in. The “keywords” a physician uses here can help you locate exactly the type of doctor you need.

This fast-tracking search method may actually allow you to find an appropriate physician in the related medical specialty, without first knowing what the specialty is! From the BoardCertified.com Home Page you can enter “Knee Surgery” in the keyword box. Since you are already on BoardCertified.com utilizing a sophisticated medical directory, you don’t need to type in the word “Doctor”. You can refine your search geographically by entering information in the “Where” box. Now your search results will show you Orthopedic Surgeons who have placed the words “Knee Surgery” in their Profile Pages.

What started out as potentially a pretty intimidating task of finding the right physician, may actually be as easy as a few simple steps.

Check on Quality, It’s worth the effort and it’s easier than you think.

Once you have a list of healthcare providers, aka doctors and hospitals, there are several ways to check on their skills and knowledge, their level of certification and the quality of care they provide. With little effort and an hour or two surfing the web, it is easy to find reliable information to help you make an informed decision when choosing a doctor or hospital.

• Find out if a consumer or other group has ratings on doctors or hospitals in your area. Make sure to find out how reliable the ratings are. A good start finding such information is to type a simple phrase into Google’s search box, like “doctors review” or “doctor ratings”. This will return search results with numerous sources that contain reviews and ratings about physicians. You must decide which of these sources you trust and which provides you with the information that you are looking for and that you are most comfortable with using.

• Each state in the US provides medical licensing information available for free to the public. Most states include board memberships in their information about a physician. This information is available in some States on the Internet at http://www.docboard.org . This Web site is run by Administrators in Medicine—a group of State Medical Board directors.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) [800-733-2267] can tell you if the doctor is board certified. Being “Certified” means that the doctor has completed a training program in a specialty and has passed an exam (board) to assess his or her knowledge, skills, and experience to provide quality patient care in that specialty. Primary care doctors also may be certified as specialists. You can also check http://www.certifacts.org . While board certification is a good measure of a doctor’s knowledge, it is possible to receive quality care from doctors who are not board certified.

• Call the American Medical Association (AMA) at 312-464-5000 for information on training, specialties, and board certification on many licensed doctors in the United States. This information also can be found in “Physician Select” at AMA’s Web site: http://www.ama-assn.orgOne of the overriding considerations for Patients when choosing a Medical Provider is to ensure that Doctor is board certified. Taking the time to verify a board membership is worth the effort and will help ensure that the doctor meets at least a minimum competency for handling your healthcare.

If a doctor claims to be certified by a medical board, you'll need to be sure that the body that certifies him or her is a legitimate medical specialty board. Since there are dozens of medical boards, and dozen more subspecialty boards, associations, and societies, the task at first may appear daunting. It really isn’t.

Steps to verify the physician’s board certification:

  • Locate the physician on BoardCertified.com. That step is typically as simple as typing in the physician’s first and last name in the keyword box located on any page of this website.
  • Some physician’s have varying degrees of information posted on BoardCertified.com. If the physician you are looking for has a profile page, click on it and look for the link to that Physician’s own website.
  • Virtually every physician has their credentials posted on their own website. Once you know the board, society or association they are credentialed with, link or go to their website.   Virtually all boards will list their membership online. 

The Physician Directory of BoardCertified.com is an invaluable resource for patients to locate a board certified doctor and learn about their particular area of medical expertise. Even if you do not know your physician’s medical specialty, a simple name search on BoardCertified.com should identify that for you.  HOWEVER, just because you cannot locate your physician on BoardCertified.com, does NOT necessarily mean that they aren’t board certified. Similarly, even if you find your physician in the BoardCertified.com Directory, it DOES NOT necessarily reflect that physician’s current standing.  With over a 500,000 physicians listed, BoardCertified.com takes great care to ensure that its information is current and accurate. However, the best source to verify your physician’s current credentials is with his member board.

Once you know what board your physician is certified with, it is simply a matter of contacting that board. All credible boards have a website, many of whom have links directly located on BoardCertified.com. Further, most boards include name search capabilities that allow you to easily verify that physician’s standing.


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