Continuing Certification

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    FAQ for Physicians Certified or Recertified in 2003, 2004, and 2005

    1. Can anyone extend their certificate by three years?
      All successful Certification or Recertification candidates will receive a 7-year certificate from the ABFM and be required to participate in the Family Medicine Certification program. Any Diplomate who is participating in Family Medicine Certification—that is, any Diplomate who has certified or recertified between 2003 & 2010—is eligible to earn an extension to their 7-year certificate. To earn the extension, a Diplomate must successfully complete a series of certification activities sectioned into 3-year Stages with specific requirements that must be successfully completed by the end of each Stage.

      The requirements per Stage:
      Each 3-year Stage requires completion of at least one Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity, at least one Performance Improvement activity (PPM, MIMM, or approved external activity), and additional Self-Assessment and/or Performance Improvement activities to reach a total of 50 points. The 3-year extension will be awarded at the end of a successfully completed Stage Two, provided the Diplomate has an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada.
    2. What is a Knowledge Self-Assessment activity?
      Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activities are comprised of a 60-question Knowledge Assessment in a specific domain and are worth 10 points. A minimum of one KSA is required to successfully complete each Stage of Family Medicine Certification. Those on the 7-year cycle are required to complete a minimum of three KSA activities.

      A Clinical Simulation Assessment (CSA) a related activity applying the knowledge learned in the KSA in a simulated patient setting and can be completed for 5 points to the total points required in a stage. The CSA does not count for the KSA requirement.
    3. What is a Self-Assessment Module (SAM)? Does a SAM apply toward my requirements?
      A Self-Assessment Module, better known as a SAM, was a single activity made of both the 60-question Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) and Clinical Self-Assessment (CSA) in a single domain. The SAM was the minimum required self-assessment activity until July 2016 when the Self-Assessment Module (SAM) was separated into what are now two separate activities in the Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) and Clinical Self-Assessment (CSA). The Knowledge Self-Assessment is now the minimum required self-assessment activity and the Clinical Self-Assessment is an optional activity to earn points only.

      The SAM does apply toward the minimum KSA required since the 60 knowledge assessment questions are include in the SAM. The SAM also counts as 15 points toward the certification requirements. In order to receive the minimum KSA credit and the 15 points, the SAM must be completed in full including both the 60 questions and clinical simulation. There is no partial credit provided for completing just the 60 knowledge assessment questions.
    4. What is a Performance Improvement activity?
      The ABFM offer a variety of Performance Improvement (PI) activities that meet the minimum one requirement as well as provide points. The ABFM developed the Performance in Practice Module (PPM), designed as a Quality Improvement activity which takes place over a minimum one-week period. There is also a Methods in Medicine Module (MIMM), designed for physicians who do not provide continuity of care for a defined panel of patients. One approved Performance Improvement activity is required to successfully complete each Stage of Family Medicine Certification.
    5. Are there other module options?
      The ABFM has established a process by which outside providers can submit Performance Improvement activities for consideration. The ABFM currently offers other options for Performance Improvement activities which have been developed by external providers. For more information on these options Click Here.
    6. How do I know which activities I need to take?
      If you are currently participating in the Family Medicine Certification program, you may login to your Physician Portfolio and check the Track Your Progress page. This area keeps you informed as to which activities you have successfully completed and what you still need to complete to fulfill the requirements for each Stage of Family Medicine Certification. For example, you may have completed two Self-Assessment activities but still need to complete one Performance Improvement module, all of which will be indicated in the Track Your Progress panels.
    7. How do I tell one module from another?
      The Self-Assessment activities are found under the Self-Assessment activities section of the ABFM website, and the Performance Improvement activities are found in the Performance Improvement section. Health topic choices for both types of activities can be found in the respective areas. You can learn more about the activities produced by outside organizations by referencing "Performance Improvement—Approved Alternative PI Activities" on our website which will provide a list of alternative Performance Improvement activities.
    8. I am not a practicing physician; do I still need to participate?
      Yes. Physicians who are administrators or who practice in settings which do not allow them to complete a Performance Improvement activity or an approved outside organization activity are still required to participate in Family Medicine Certification. These physicians may complete a different type of Performance Improvement activity, which include a Cultural Competency Methods in Medicine Module (MIMM), the Hand Hygiene PPM or Self-Directed Performance Improvement effort.
    9. Are the requirements the same for everyone?
      In sum, the requirements are the same; however the path to obtaining a 3-year extension will vary in terms of the combination and types of activities completed, depending on whether or not you see patients in a clinical setting that will allow you to complete a Performance Improvement activity.
    10. If I want to retain or qualify for a 7-year certificate, does that mean I am not required to complete any activities?
      No. Participation in Family Medicine Certification is still a requirement for being approved to sit for the Family Medicine Certification Examination and continuous certification. That element of the program has not changed. If a physician chooses to retain a 7-year certification, that physician will need to complete a minimum of 3 Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activities, a minimum of 1 Performance Improvement activity, and additional Self-Assessment and/or Performance Improvement activities to reach a minimum of 110 points during the seven years.
    11. If I am behind in completing my activities, can I catch up?
      You may catch up within each 3-year stage. That is, activities are required for every 3-year Stage, but they may be completed at any time during that 3-year Stage. However, failing to meet the first or second Stage deadlines will automatically disqualify you from being granted the 3-year extension necessary for a 10-year certificate. Please note, in order to be considered current in Family Medicine Certification on the 7-year cycle, you must, on a cumulative basis, complete one module per year.
    12. How many external providers approved activities can be completed in a 10-year cycle?
      There is no limit on the number of approved activities that you can take from external providers, but there will be no reimbursement of any fees which might be paid to the external organization for their activities. Furthermore, in addition to the fee paid to an external provider, you will still be required to pay your Family Medicine Certification fee requirements.
    13. Does Family Medicine Certification replace the need for CME?
      No. The requirement of 300 CME credits in the six years immediately prior to the exam stands. However, CME credit is awarded for completion of many of the ABFM activities associated with Family Medicine Certification.
    14. Can I use CME credits as alternatives to participating in activities to satisfy the Family Medicine Certification requirement?
      No. You must complete the required number of Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement activities for either the 7-year or 10-year Family Medicine Certification option, depending on which you choose. Participation is a requirement for being approved to sit for the Family Medicine Certification Examination.
    15. Wouldn't you be requiring us to take activities every year after our 7-year certificate anyway—how is this different?
      Yes. Periodically completing activities is required to maintain a 7-year certificate. However, by providing Diplomates with an option to complete a particular course of activities which will lead to a 10-year certificate, the Family Medicine Certification Examination can be taken every ten years instead of every seven.
    16. How do I access my Physician Portfolio?
      Your Physician Portfolio can be accessed through the ABFM Website by entering your assigned ID and password. Once there you will be able to set up your password-protected functions.
    17. How do I track my progress through the Family Medicine Certification process?
      All Family Medicine Certification components are completed and tracked within your Physician Portfolio. The Physician Portfolio is your personal database that contains your contact information, online exam applications, and tools to track your progress through the Family Medicine Certification process.
    18. What if I cannot locate my ID and Password?
      The best option is to click on "Help! I forgot my password and/or username" under the login on the home page of our website to obtain this information.

      If you need additional assistance, you may contact the ABFM Support Center by phone at 877-223-7437 or by email at help@theabfm.org to request your ID and password.
    19. Is it possible to sit for the Family Medicine Certification Exam early?
      Yes. A Diplomate may sit for the Family Medicine Certification Examination early; however, all requirements must be completed as if they were taking the exam in year seven or year ten. In other words, taking the exam early does not excuse you from completing the required number of activities.

      Diplomates who opt to take the Family Medicine Certification Examination before the last year of their certification will begin a new period of certification should their exam attempt be successful. Any remaining time on the previous certification will be forfeited.
    20. Does my participation in Family Medicine Certification change my requirements with my state licensing board?
      Each state has different requirements. You should contact the state licensing authority for information regarding your state's license requirements.
    21. Can I choose any activity to satisfy the requirements needed for the 10-year certificate?
      The requirements for each 3-year Stage are a minimum of one Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity, a minimum of one Performance Improvement activity, and additional Self-Assessment and/or Performance Improvement activities to reach a total of 50 points. The requirements for each of the second and third Stages are the same as the requirements for the first 3-year stage. You may choose any health topic within the module type (Self-Assessment or Performance Improvement) to meet your requirement.
    22. Can activities only be completed via the Internet?
      Yes. The ABFM developed certification activities are available only as interactive web applications. However, the knowledge assessment questions in the Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity can be downloaded and printed for off-line review. You then would need to return to the online Knowledge Assessment to enter your answers.
    23. How many activities can I undertake in a year?
      Since CME credit is available for all ABFM activities, you may complete as many as you wish; however, any activities taken in excess of the Stage requirements cannot be counted toward Family Medicine Certification credit in a subsequent Stage. Furthermore, a Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity cannot be retaken for Family Medicine Certification credit until 3 years after the physician last completed the activity.
    24. What is the cost of Family Medicine Certification?
      The cost of Family Medicine Certification is dependent on the year you begin the process. To obtain specific information and payment plan options, log in to your Physician Portfolio.
    25. When will my extension be issued?
      The extension will be granted in the year following the successful conclusion of Stage Two. The Diplomate must hold an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada on the last day of Stage Two in order to be granted the extension.
    26. Does it cost more money to obtain a 10-year certificate?
      Those Diplomates that qualify for an extension under the pay-as-you-go payment plan will simply continue to pay for activities as taken with their exam fee due in the year in which they sit for the exam. For those Diplomates on the full and annual payment plans that qualify for an extension at the end of Stage Two, there will be an extension fee due in Stage Three after qualifying for the extension. This extension fee for those Diplomates that selected the full payment plan will be $150 and will include the cost of the additional activities in Stage Three which are needed in order to qualify to take the exam in year ten. For those Diplomates that selected the annual payment plan the extension fee will be $350 and will include the cost of one final annual payment due under the original 7-year cycle as well the cost of the additional activities in Stage Three which are needed in order to qualify to take the exam in year ten.
    27. Are refunds available if I select a Prepayment Plan and then choose to not participate?
      Yes. Refunds will be given in the following situations:
      • Withdrawal from active practice—usually as the result of an event such as retirement, disability or death. If the physician has chosen a prepayment option, the ABFM will, upon written request, refund the unused portion of any prepaid fee less an administrative fee.
      • Loss of certification because of license problems—if a physician loses certification because of a license problem and has chosen a prepayment option, the ABFM will, upon written request, refund the unused portion of any prepaid Family Medicine Certification fees, less an administrative fee. At such time as the medical license is reinstated, certification will also be reinstated to any Diplomate whose certificate has not expired, and the physician may continue to participate in Family Medicine Certification on a pay-as-you-go basis. However, it is important to note that those physicians who encounter license problems may wish not to receive a refund and continue to complete Family Medicine Certification requirements, despite the fact that their certificate has been revoked. This will allow them to remain current with their Family Medicine Certification requirements when their certificate is re-instated after their license problems have been resolved.
    28. What portion of the prepaid Family Medicine Certification fee will be refunded?
      The ABFM will, upon written request, refund the amount paid which is over and above the pay-as-you-go fee for the activities which have been started, and an administrative fee will be charged for processing the refund.
    29. Once I select a Family Medicine Certification payment plan are the amounts fixed?
      Yes, once you select the annual or full payment options they will not change in amount over the 7-year cycle. Please note that it is expected that these payment plans will increase over time so the earlier a plan is selected the lower the payments will be over the life of your certificate.

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